On Food Day, October 24, 2013, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance® (USFRA®) hosted a panel, “Farm Size: Does It Really Matter?” at the State Room in Boston to discuss the differences and similarities between large and small farms, and how farm size and ownership affect consumers’ food-purchasing decisions. Our panel consisted of farmers, ranchers and food pundits, including moderator Alan Bjerga (noted food author and Bloomberg News reporter) and Michael Jacobson (Food Day founder and executive director, Center for Science in the Public Interest).
Click on the full length video above to watch the panel discussion or click on the clips to see highlights.
- Michael Swanson , Agricultural Economist Wells Fargo Bank NA, Minneapolis, Minn. View Full Bio
Michael Swanson, Ph. D., is an agricultural economist and consultant for Wells Fargo Bank, NA, the largest commercial agricultural lender in the United States. Based in Minneapolis, he is tasked with analyzing the impact of energy on agriculture, forecasting for key agricultural commodities, such as wheat, soybeans, corn and cotton, as well as livestock sectors such as cattle, dairy and hogs. Michael joined Wells Fargo in 2000 as a senior economist. Previously, he worked at Land O' Lakes, a large national dairy cooperative based in Minnesota. There, he supervised a portion of the supply chain for dairy products, including scheduling the production, warehousing and distribution of more than 400 million pounds of cheese annually and also supervised the sales forecasting process.
Michael received undergraduate degrees in economics and business administration from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., and both his master’s and doctorate degrees in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Minnesota.
- Leah Beyer, Farmer and Consultant, Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Soybean Association, Shelby County, Ind. View Full Bio
Leah Beyer is a corn and soybean farmer from, Shelby County, Indiana. Leah has worked with the 4-H program as a training specialist for the Indiana Farm Bureau and as an instructional designer for Adayana. In 2009, she joined the Indiana Soybean Alliance as the livestock director. Today, she continues to work for the Indiana Soybean Alliance as a consultant as well as for the Indiana Soybean Association as the animal agriculture lead. She also assists other clients with public affairs, public relations and social media needs.
The middle child of a large animal veterinarian and a teacher, Leah grew up in east-central Illinois loving 4-H and showing Jerseys, which her dad allowed to spawn into a small dairy farm. She earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and a graduate degree in agricultural education from the University of Illinois. After moving to Shelby County, Ind., to be a 4-H educator, Leah met her husband, Matt. Together, they assumed full management of the Beyer family dairy. In 2009, Leah and Matt sold their cows and shifted their focus to corn and soybeans. She believes farmers need a voice in their communities and beyond, and there’s an entire world that ought to know the real story behind their food and fiber.
- Jamie Cruz, Owner/Grower, Springdell Farm, Littleton, Mass. View Full Bio
Jamie Cruz is the owner and grower at Springdell Farm in Littleton, Massachusetts. At the age of 25, Jamie is one of the head operators of the fourth generation, diversified family farm that has vegetables, beef, pork, turkeys and chickens. Her main focus today lies on crop production and greenhouse management. Jamie is very active in the local community and chairs the Littleton Agricultural Commission. She is also very involved in the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, serving as the Young Farmers & Ranchers State Chair, member of the Middlesex County Farm Bureau, and a member of the MFBF State Board of Directors.
She has spent her entire life on a farm. In her early years, Jamie worked alongside her grandfather, Gerry, picking peppers to ship off to local supermarkets and riding on the back of their old 8N with her uncle Tasso as he headed out to the fields in the early morning to harvest corn for their roadside stand. At eight years old, she started a cut flower business; growing mostly zinnias and gladiolas that she sold at the farm stand. Shortly after that, she found herself managing the farm stand. She remodeled the building and added CSA, letting go of the wholesale markets. In 2010, the family completed their generational transfer which handed the land from the second generation into the hands of the third and fourth to ensure the farm would stay farming for years to come.
- Michael Jacobson, Founder, Food Day and Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, DC View Full Bio
Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., is co-founder and executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health advocacy organization. CSPI is a key player in battles against obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems, using tactics ranging from education to legislation to litigation. Jacobsen co-founded the organization in 1971. He has been a national leader in the movement to require nutrition labels on all foods and most beverages to help consumers make informed decisions about what to consume. He has also advocated for higher taxes on junk food. Jacobson has written numerous books and reports, including Nutrition Scoreboard, Six Arguments for a Greener Diet, "Salt: the Forgotten Killer" and "Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans’ Health."
- Bill Luckey, Soybean and Pork Farmer, Columbus, Neb. View Full Bio
Bill Luckey is a soybean and pork farmer from Columbus, Nebraska. Bill and his wife, along with their two sons, operate their family farm which includes 600 crop acres, cattle, sows and finishing hogs. Luckey also serves on the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Board of Directors and several committees. He has demonstrated a true passion for promoting the agriculture industry, especially to youth with his involvement in the Platte County 4-H program and the "Life on the Farm" extension programs for urban school children.
He has served as the president and secretary of the Pla-Co Pork Producers, president and vice president of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. Other leadership positions and affiliations include: Nebraska Soybean Growers, Nebraska Lead Class XIX, Platte Co Ag Society, Platte County Extension Board, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Nebraska Rural Radio Association, Platte Valley Cattlemen and Speak up for Ag.
- Lori Renzi, Vice President, Brand Strategy and Development, Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations, Chicago, Ill. View Full Bio
Lori Renzi is the vice president of brand strategy and development at Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovation (CBCI). CBCI is a consulting practice for the global food industry that assists with flavor and menu development, nutritional assessments, brand strategy and more. At CBCI, Lori is tasked with the direction of all strategic and marketing activities, as well as the development and the re-launch of the CBCI brand.
Lori has a breadth of experience in the food industry, from service to manufacturing. She has managed new product development for brands like Morton Salt and GreenLine Foods. Previously she served as co-owner of Lexi’s in Chicago, where she bartended, served, and managed promotions and financials. She earned her master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
- Bruce Rominger, Farmer, Rominger Brothers Farm, Winters, Calif. View Full Bio
Bruce Rominger is a fifth-generation farmer from Yolo County in California. He and his brother, Rick, own Rominger Brothers Farm, a progressive, diversified family farm and ranch located north of Winters, California. They produce many different crops using organic and conventional techniques, including winegrapes, processing tomatoes, rice, wheat, corn, safflower, sunflower, onions, alfalfa and oat hay. They are committed to growing crops in ways that protect the environment, such as minimizing the use of crop protection materials, crop rotation, using drip irrigation to conserve water and using sheep to graze crop residue.
He has a background in local water issues and water policy. Bruce currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. He served on the Board of Directors for the California Tomato Growers Association from 1991 to 2000, the Board of Directors of the Yolo County Resource Conservation District from 1989 to 2000 and the Board of Directors of Western Yolo Intercom from 1984 to 1996. He holds a Bachelor of Science in plant science from the University of California at Davis, and also serves as a Farmer/Advisor to the Sustainable Agriculture Research Project, an ongoing research project of the University of California at Davis.
- Alan Bjerga [MODERATOR], Author of “Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest” and agriculture policy reporter for Bloomberg News View Full Bio
Alan Bjerga is the author of the book “Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest” which discusses changes in food supply, demand and trading that have created a new era of price volatility for food. He also covers agriculture policy for Bloomberg News. A former president of the National Press Club, Mr. Bjerga has won awards from the Overseas Press Club, the New York Press Club, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and the North American Agricultural Journalists. He grew up on a family farm in northern Minnesota.