A Common Message

Stephanie Pruitt, communications director for TCP, standing at TCP building.

There are 2.1 million farms in the United States, 97 percent of them are family owned farms, according to the USDA. Farmers in the U.S. only make up 2 percent of the world’s population. This is quite low considering farmers feed and clothe our nation. The Natural Resource Conservation Service and Texas Corn Producers developed a message to educate consumers about agriculture and where their food comes from.

Stephanie Pruitt, communication director for TCP and Texas Tech alumna, describes their partnership with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, as beneficial for farmers, as well as, the non-profit organization, TCP.

“[The partnership] has allowed us to amplify our funds for our farmers and make a greater impact on not only the farm front, but on an education front for our policy makers, key influencers and with the general public,” Pruitt said.

“There is a lot to look forward to because of this partnership,” Pruitt said.

Not only are the benefits mutual but the partners also have a common message they want the country to hear.

NRCS and TCP have been in a partnership for over six years. Their first joint campaign, ‘Water Grows Our Economy, Let’s Make It Last,’ informs the public about water conservation and how farmers are applying it with help from the NRCS.

NRCS and TCP help farmers in the south plains and panhandle understand the importance to sustain resources and how sustainable farming will benefit them in the future.

“Not only does the water conservation campaign help the farmers, but it saves water for the future, which in turn, saves jobs and economic growth,” Pruitt said.

While hosting several different events to promote and build the agriculture industry, Quenna Terry, NRCS public affairs specialist, and Pruitt worked together to develop a way to get their message of conservation and food sustainability out to millions of people.

“We have definitely seen a lot of growth in the communication side of things, because that’s where we see a lot of need in the agriculture industry,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt and Terry’s goal was to talk to consumers about their message, but more importantly, show them exactly what happens on a farm. While researching online, they came across a group that did a “Banquet in a Field” event.

“We saw a very similar event called ‘Banquet in a Field’,” Pruitt said. “We were able to mold what we saw there.” They developed a “Field-to-Fork” event to promote their message, hoping to do something different that would have an educational impact on consumers.

“We wanted to make sure that people got the chance to see what a family farm looks like today and show that it is not this corporate thing,” said Pruitt.

Because most people do not realize what all goes into a family farm, they decided to ask the Wesley and Suzie Spurlock of Cactus, Texas, to host the dinner on their Early Settlers Farm.

The Spurlocks acquired the farm from the late Mr. and Mrs. Joe Everett. They had made a lasting impression on their community including the Scurlocks. The Early Settlers Farm has thousands of acres with many different crops. The Scurlock’s produce sustainable food for their family and community and hope to pass on their farm for many generations to come.

The Spurlock family teamed up with the NRCS and TCP to host a meal on Aug. 2, with 60 people in attendance including a state legislator, local and regional media, bloggers and key influencers of the food industry.

Set in a corn field on the Early Settlers Farm, attendees had a three course meal prepared by Amarillo Chef, Colby Newman. During the meal, corn farmers from around the area talked to the attendees about sustainable farming practices and the technology they are using on their farms to conserve and protect resources.

Terry said the main goal of the event was to educate urban consumers on water conservation, women in agriculture, and what farmers do to get their food to the plate.

“We had such a good response from this event, we plan on doing it every year,” Terry said.

The day after the “Field-to-Fork” dinner took place, NRCS and TCP held a satellite media tour. A satellite media tour is used by corporations or organizations to provide key speakers to answer questions and interact with live news hosts to get a specific message out.

It had been aired 587 times and had a reach of 54.4 million people and counting. Two female farmers spoke on behalf of the agriculture industry to answer questions on sustainability, farmer technology, ownership, women in agriculture, and how farmers are producing quality food.

“We had women waking up before dawn and they started doing interviews at 5:30 a.m.,” Pruitt said. “Not only with local reporters but with reporters all across the country.”
Pruitt said they certainly achieved spreading their message, but hoped they are able to gain the trust from consumers to help continue spreading their message. NRCS and TCP are not stopping there.

“We will continue to plan and host events that will carry our message for water conservation and sustainable agriculture,” Terry said.

NRCS and TCP are currently planning several events for the next year to keep their message out in the media. They plan to revamp their “Water Grows Our Economy” website with new information and talk to students in the fourth and fifth grades to influence the future of agriculture. Pruitt said teaching students about agriculture at a young age is really important to preserve the message on conservation and sustainability because they are our future leaders.

The NRCS and TCP continue their work to keep agriculture thriving and away from the negative aspects that has affected the views of agriculture. Their future plans focus on showing agriculture in a positive way to educate consumers on where and how their food gets produced. With farmers representing only 2 percent of our population their message will help consumers understand farmers and what they do to feed our nation.

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