Snacks at the Table - February 20, 2019 - Food Dialogues

Snacks at the Table - February 20, 2019

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Science to Sense-Making Across the Value Chain 

When we invest in science and data solutions, we create sustainable outcomes for the future and leave the land in better condition for the next generation. On our farm in Maryland, it’s the nutrient management plan, precision farming techniques and seed technology that help us contribute to a healthier planet.

Earlier this month, I attended the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) inaugural Foster Our Future event in Washington D.C. With more than 500 researchers, food and agribusiness organizations, academics and NGOs in attendance, I spoke on a panel with the CEO of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Erin Fitzgerald about science to sense-making and co-creating pathways to bridge knowledge gaps.

In discussing the importance of communication, collaboration and working toward shared goals of a better tomorrow, the light bulb always goes off when these individuals have a personal connection with a farmer. Or even better, when they visit the farm to see, touch and experience our environmental impact from planting to harvest. Whether seeing the no-till acres helping soil erosion, our buffer strips enhancing the water quality or the thriving wildlife either swimming or on land, they realize that farmers are change agents and the solution.

As a farmer in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, our nutrient management plan has shown us that soil science and agronomy is real. We only need a precise amount of fertilizer as an input for the crop and to strengthen our soil – we’ve learned that there’s no reason to overfertilize. Not only are we believers of the science, but we see the economic value and environmental sustainability of soil health.

But these insight is only valuable if we’re working with and through the food value chain. And trust is the most important factor in co-creating shared outcomes. When aligning on sustainability, we as farmers don’t tell food companies or retailers how to make their food or sell their products – because they’re experts at that. Likewise, we as farmers are the experts at growing food and ask for that level of trust to be reciprocated.

In bridging the gap between farmers and end-users, U.S. Farmers & Rancher Alliance’s new Ecosystems Services Science Advisory Council is developing opportunities to better understand agricultural environmental impact research, communications and knowledge gaps. This will spark science to sense-making for both food and agriculture leaders within the value chain and help us achieve food security, nutrition and environmental outcomes together.


Chip Bowling, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Chairman

5 Pathways in Response to EAT-Lancet Garners Traction 

The recent EAT-Lancet Report which states, “how we grow, process, transport, consume and waste food is hurting both people and planet,” offers an incomplete perspective of the future food systems required to meet the challenges of a rapidly growing population. In response, our CEO Erin Fitzgerald and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance science team compiled the 5 Pathways to Sustainable Food Systems which brings to light the true science and role of agriculture in our society. Erin’s blog post includes a high-level overview of the 5 Pathways and background on the EAT-Lancet report. In promoting the blog post digitally, USFRA ranks 2nd for the #EatLancet hashtag, and it’s garnered 154,115 impressions, 1,832 engagements and 1,365 website visits and link clicks. 

American Farm Bureau Federation highlighted the blog post in it’s Focus on Agriculture newsletter distributed to state Farm Bureaus, reporters at daily/weekly newspapers and other influential digital publications.

USFRA Presents at FFAR Foster Our Future Conference

Earlier this month, USFRA Chairman Chip Bowling and USFRA CEO Erin Fitzgerald attended the Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) Foster Our Future Conference in Washington D.C. with more than 500 attendees spanning the research, agribusiness, academia and government sectors. USFRA presented a session focused on “Science to Sense-Making: Co-Creating Pathways to Bridge Knowledge Gaps.” Both Chip and Erin discussed how farmers and ranchers are the change agents and solution to enhanced sustainability practices and varying climate patterns. In addition, they shared the importance of collaboration and working towards a shared goal of a better tomorrow across the entire food value chain.

During the Foster Our Future conference, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance CEO presented the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue with our USFRA 2.0 challenge coin showcasing how every farmer, every acre and every voice matter.

Ag Tech Panel Selected for SXSW on March 11

This March, during SXSW’s 30 sessions for the Food Convergence Track, USFRA in partnership with National Pork Board and National Corn Growers Association, will be presenting on Ag Tech Shaping the Future of Farming. If you’re attending SXSW, please join us for the session. All others can watch the livestream on USFRA’s Facebook page on March 11 from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. CST. Our speakers, representing Iowa AgriTech Accelerator, Vive Crop Protection, Quantified Ag and Spronk Brothers III, will discuss how the modern farm is more efficient and more sustainable than ever before.

Description: Silicon Valley, the home of technology, innovation and…agtech startups? In an unpredictable profession due to uncontrollable environments, companies are investing their time and technologies to offer more precise and effective management solutions that can help farmers and ranchers enhance sustainability and withstand climate obstacles. But as agriculture embraces new technologies, there is significant pushback from the public who still embrace the romanticized way of farming – the big red barn, animals roaming around outside and a vintage tractor plowing across the field. The reality is, from nanotechnology used to improve crop inputs to smart cattle ear tags enhancing animal health, the modern farm is more efficient and more sustainable than ever before.


  • Megan Vollstedt, Executive Director, Iowa AgriTech Accelerator
  • Darren Anderson, Ph.D., President and Co-Founder, Vive Crop Protection
  • Randy Spronk, Minnesota Pig & Crop Farmer
  • Alex Heine, Director of Customer Experience, Quantified Ag

Tune in for Farm, Food, Facts Podcast

Earlier this month on Farm Food Facts, our thought leader Sally Rockey, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, discussed why game-changing research, technology and innovation is critical to the future of farming and the food world – and how you can be a part of it. Dr. Brett Kaysen, assistant VP of Sustainability for the Pork Checkoff, was also featured on the podcast to discuss how America’s pig farmers are using science and research to enhance sustainability and animal care.

Please encourage your organization to share information about Farm, Food, Facts as a resource. To listen to our collection of podcasts please visit or subscribe to it on iTunes, Stitcher and/or Soundcloud. If you know of any world class thought leaders or farmers who could be featured, please email


Upcoming Events

Do you have an upcoming event that you would like help promoting? Email Paul Murphy-Spooner at with the event information and USFRA will help you raise awareness via our social media and communications channels.


We’re always looking to feature our partners, supporters or farmers/ranchers who find interesting ways to inform thought leaders and influencers about today’s agriculture, so please reach out and share your stories with us!