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The Farm Bill Goes Viral on Farm Bureau Social Media Tour

by Steve Ammerman

NYFB Director of Communicationssocial media tour 1.jpg


Three women took their hundreds of thousands of social media followers to the farm on a recent tour of agriculture in New York’s Hudson Valley.

The unique experience was a collaboration between New York and American Farm Bureaus, hosting a social media influencer tour to help people who are not involved in agriculture better understand the importance of the Farm Bill. All three women are active across social media highlighting food, recipe development and nutrition. Their audiences may not always hear about agricultural policy but could be important advocates because they care about the food system. This is a new way for Farm Bureau to talk about important issues to the public.

The influencers include Lauren Grant who blogs under the name “Zestful Kitchen”, Courtney Paige whose Instagram handle is “A Paige of Positivity” and Emily Schaapman, who has more than 250,000 followers on her “Dairy Girl Fitness” TikTok page.

Schaapman has the most agricultural experience having grown up around dairy farming. She still shows jersey cows on her husband’s family farm in Georgia, but she admits that she didn’tsocial media tour 2.jpg know much about the Farm Bill, the biggest piece of federal legislation that funds the USDA and critical nutrition and agricultural programs. These include risk management, research, and conservation programs that farmers rely upon.

“I didn’t know a whole lot, which was kind of embarrassing for me to think about because I am involved in ag, but I knew the general sense of it being a group of laws that were about food and agriculture. But other than that, I didn’t really know how it impacted people in food and nutrition and agriculturee directly,” said Schaapman.

To give all three a better understanding of the Farm Bill, NYFB organized a tour with AFBF that began at The Marshall in New York City. It is a farm to table restaurant whose owner and chef, Charlie Marshall, grew up on a Washington State farm. He talked to the group about why the Farm Bill matters to his family and his business. This includes helping support the farms he sources from to provide local ingredients. Marshall is also on the New York Wine and Grape Foundation board that supports grape research funding in the Farm Bill.

The following day, the tour made several more stops. They witnessed research taking place at Cornell Agritech’s Hudson Valley Research Lab, east of New Paltz. The lab primarily helps fruit and vegetable growers with breeding, pest management, and much more, especially as there are increasing threats of climate change. This was demonstrated on the next stop at Dressel Farms, a nearby apple orchard. They also produce grapes ad hard cider. Brother and sister duo, Tim and Sarah Dressel, stressed that the Farm Bill is providing crop insurance support following last year’s late freeze that damaged part of their apple crop. They are also applying for a USDA grant to expand their farmstand to increase access to local food.

“It is important for them to be able to weather those horrible droughts and floods. But I think it’s a bigger picture of how we maintain what is so wonderful about America and our incredible food system. That is something that the rest of the world looks at as a success, and the people that are doing that are the people that are experts who know and care about the planet and the ground more than anybody,” said Lauren Grant.

The bus ride continued north with a stop at the Taste NY Welcome Center near the Coxsackie exit of the Thruway. Kelly Young, Director of Agricultural Development at NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, highlighted how the state works with the Farm Bill to increase nutrition programs that provide market opportunities for farmers. The display of local products also showcased the breadth of diversity to the influencers.
 It was here that Rensselaer County Farm Bureau President Mike Swartz joined the conversation. His farm also relies on crop insurance programs in the Farm Bill for their row crops, and they accept Senior Farmer Market and EBT dollars at farm markets where they sell the specialty crops they produce. NYFB Vice President Eric Ooms was also a part of the tour and provided his family farm’s perspective about the Farm Bill’s impact on New York agriculture.

The final stop was Dutch Hollow Farms, east of Albany. Dairy farmer Nate Chittenden gave the group a tour while explaining along the way how his farm depends on the Farm Bill for risk management, funding for environmental conservation projects, as well as research into animal nutrition and more. A perk of the tour was seeing a dairy calf being born. The whole tour was an eye-opener for the three influencers.
“I think that’s really important to see. It makes buying a gallon of milk a completely different experience, and I think people need to understand what goes into their food. And there’s such a separation right now about how people understand where their food comes from. I think that this is an important for people to experience,” said Grant.

All three took their followers along on the tour through social media posts and stories.  Over the coming weeks they will produce additional content about the tour and why the Farm Bill should matter to everyone.

“Most interesting thing about the farm bill is how complex it is. I just think there is so much in the legislation. And in order to get it passed, it takes a lot of moving pieces. And advocates like Farm Bureau and people on the ground make it possible for all consumers,” said Paige.

“I think being able to learn about this just goes to show how much care and how much research and just how much thought goes into producing the food that gets on the shelves. People just don’t have the opportunity to see agriculture as much anymore, and being able to hear more about it and see more about it on social and even from my perspective, it just again puts faces to the products and to really understand all of the thought and all of the information and technology that goes into it. It shows how much I think the producers in this country care,” said Schaapman.


Photo captions:
Lauren Grant of Zestful Kitchen feeds a cow at Dutch Hollow Farms as dairy farmer Nate Chittenden discusses the important of the Farm Bill.

Social media influencers Emily Schaapman, right, and Courtney Paige try their hand at pruning grape vines at Dressel Farm. Orchard co-owner Tim Dressel is in the background explaining the grape growing process to Lauren Grant.