HOST LEGISLATORS, COUNTY AND TOWN OFFICIALS ON FARM TOURS
The Utah Ag Promotions Committee recently hosted the spouses of Utah legislators on a farm tour. The summary that follows may help you as you plan a county farm tour for local public officials.
What are you trying to accomplish? We wanted to keep it simple with the purpose of building friendships and relationships with the spouses and providing an opportunity for them to have a “feel good” experience on a farm.
Plan the event. Talk to people who may give insight into what will make the event successful. Becca Ferry reached out to Christie Sandall, Rep. Scott Sandall’s wife, and asked her for suggestions. She suggested that we keep it short--a morning and not a full day--as the wives like to get back and listen to floor time in the House and Senate. She suggested that we start of simple.
We visited the Petersen Family Farm in Riverton, Utah. Two weeks before the tour we arranged to meet with Hilarie Petersen at the farm and discuss the agenda for the tour. We wanted her to share what was unique about their farm. Hilarie gave a history of the farm and explained how they are preserving their farm in the middle of an urban area by sharing the farm with their community. She introduced the group to one of her H2A migrant workers who returns to their farm every year from Mexico. He talked to the group and was open to questions. The group had a wagon ride, toured the farm store, and learned about Petersen’s “Little Farmer” pre-school. Attendees had time to walk around the farm. We also worked out logistics such as where the bus would park, where to serve the boxed lunches and when and where to hand out the gift bags.
Invite guests. We sent via email through the Third House. Spouses were invited to bring their children and grandchildren on the tour. Extending the invitation to families definitely helped increase the number of spouses who attended. We had 18 spouses attend, 4 of their adult children and 11 children and grandchildren . Make sure you are aware of the children and find ways to engage them. Hilarie had the children sing the “Prune, Shovel, Pick, and Weed” song to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and engaged them with questions throughout the tour.
Volunteers —Rally your volunteers with your enthusiasm. Divide up the work. Make assignments such as a person to take pictures during the tour, arranging for transportation, arranging for lunches, gathering and putting together swag bags, and teaching moments/activities (animals, tractors, a scavenger hunt or an activity from Ag in the Classroom).
Event Day—Emphasize the importance of agriculture. Tell your story—what you grow, where you live, what your family involvement is on the farm. Stay on time and be positive. Allow enough time for questions and answers. In order to stay on time, we ordered boxed lunches which they ate on the bus returning to the capitol, but you could sit down and have lunch together and use that as a question and answer time. We ordered boxed lunches with turkey and roast beef sandwiches. In hopes of the attendees making a connection between the food they were eating for lunch and the farmers/ranchers who produce the food, we taped cards to the top of the boxed lunches introducing a Utah family that raises turkeys, a dairy family, and another Utah family that raises beef.
Swag Bags—Each adult was given a swag bag that included a Farm Bureau t-shirt, wool socks from the Wool Growers, popcorn from the Petersen Family Farm, dried tart cherries from the Payson Fruit Growers, salt from Redmond Salt, Gossner milk, coupons for free Dannon yogurt, a Farm Fact booklet, sunglasses from the Dairy Council and information about Farm Bureau.
Use Resources Available to You—We bused the group from the state capitol to the farm, so we used that time to teach the attendees about Farm Bureau and several Utah farms and ranches. We ordered a bus that had video capability and showed the group videos produced by Utah Farm Bureau. Find videos HERE.
After the Event—Thank your volunteers and sponsors. Post photos. Recap the event with your team and make notes on what went well and what could be improved for next time.