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October 23, 2009   Email to Friend 

National Farm-City Week Shifts Its Focus To Animal Welfare
By Darryal Ray

Laird Cole photo is part of AFBF's 'Conversations on Care' campaign.
The ad on Page 5 of the Colorado Way of Life magazine says it all: "I care because my family's business thrives by keeping you and your family healthy and happy."

Above it, a photo of Alabama Farmers Federation member Laird Cole proudly holding a Holstein calf in his arms.

The ad was from the American Farm Bureau Federation's "Conversations On Care" campaign, an effort to educate the public on the truth of farm animal care -- a mission that is being shared by the National Farm-City Council and its state organizations as National Farm-City Week is observed Nov. 20-26 in states all across the U.S.

"With fewer and fewer people having a farming heritage, issues like animal care, environmental stewardship and food safety are becoming points of conflict between rural and urban residents," said Jeff Helms, director of communications for the Alabama Farmers Federation and a member of the National Farm-City board of directors. "As a result, the National Farm-City Committee, as part of a new strategic plan, has committed to focusing Farm-City activities on a major issue each year. This year, that issue is animal care."

More specifically, the theme "Farm Animal Care: Myths vs. Facts" seeks to communicate to urban audiences the challenges facing producers of America's meat supply.

The "Farm Animal Care" theme for this year's Alabama Farm-City Week has been communicated to state and county volunteers, who are gearing local activities to match the national strategy. For example, Helms said, the Alabama Farm-City Committee is embracing this year's issue by announcing that the theme for its annual student poster and essay contests will be, "Farmers Care -- For Animals and You."

The poster and essay contest winners are recognized, along with the efforts of Alabama's county Farmers Federations, during the annual Alabama Farm-City Awards each April.

In past years, these efforts largely focused on general farm education and the hosting of local events aimed at creating an opportunity for farmers to interact with their city neighbors.

But with animal activism on the rise, the National Farm-City Council took up the cause of the AFBF in its "Conversations On Care." The campaign's own Web site, ConversationsOnCare.com, strives to engage the general non-farming public in addressing the care of farm animals.

The site offers facts on farms, such as 98 percent of all U.S. farms are family owned and each American farmer feeds about 144 people. In 1960, that number was 25.8. Visitors can click on icons of various livestock to learn more about how those animals are cared for.

More importantly, perhaps, is the site's "Q&A Forum" in which farmers and the public can talk about the issues in a moderated forum that can become a lively, spirited debate. Then, there is the "Testimonials" area of the site, an area in which Will Gilmer, a dairy and beef producer in Sulligent and former state chairman of the Young Farmers program, appears alongside a Nebraska beef and swine producer, a California poultry farmer and a Mississippi hog producer.

"I am the third generation on my family's Holstein farm," Gilmer says in his testimonial. "Good care and healthy animals lead to safe food and a viable cattle operation. That's why we have our calving heifers on a nutrition regimen that is set by our nutritionist. We keep our cows on pasture and supplement with hay so they have plenty to eat. We provide access to barns to provide the herd shelter, and in the summer we have fans and sprinklers in the barn to keep them cool. The health of these animals is tied to our livelihood. I have a son that's 2 years old, and I want him to have the option to, someday, join a strong viable business."

And that's another reason to care.



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