Laura: Advocacy—From the field to Times Square

New York, New York—Was NYC the last possible location you thought you’d see on today’s post? If you would have asked me a few short months ago, I would have felt the same way. Unless I’m forgetting something, for over a decade now, my Junes have been devoted to being within an easy driving distance of or being on-site with our crew. That is, until now.

This was my view on Saturday, then the next night I couldn’t be any further from this physical reality! 

In April, I learned I had been selected to American Farm Bureau Federation’s “Partners in Advocacy Leadership” program. PAL, sponsored by American Farm Bureau Federation, Bayer and Farm Credit, is a two-year, rigorous agriculture advocacy training program that equips ten students from across the United States with skills to work with the media, in the political realm, consumers and stakeholder groups. You can learn more about this program by clicking this link.

I was excited to join PAL Class 11, but there was one catch. The first module was to be held in New York City in June. Yikes! Even though I’m not in a machine 24/7, I’m always on standby to help whenever needed and sometimes that means hopping in a seat to fill in, grabbing parts, taking care of office needs, transporting team members or equipment, etc. June is a tough time to be gone. Talk about a bit of stress and guilt.

Thanks to Ryan and a great crew keeping things going in the field, as well as my mom who watched the kids, I was able to take the risk. We live in a time where agriculture advocacy is not just important, but crucial. Less than 2% of the American population is directly involved in production agriculture. We must tell our stories to the media, listen to and interact with consumers, and be involved in the legislative process to continue to be able to produce a safe and reliable food supply for the people of this nation and world.

I would be lying if I said the five days in New York wasn’t intense. It was jammed back with learning, both in the meeting room and outside that space. One of the things I was most worried about was delivering the two speeches I had prepared as homework and engaging in the mock media interviews. We had to present these in front of the trainers and our new peers to receive constructive feedback, often publicly, so we could all benefit from their ideas. The first few rounds were nerve-racking, but as time continued, we all really embraced the process of learning from one another, and focused on putting the feedback to practice and improving each time.













Laura is participating in a mock radio interview with media coach, Jay Poole. (Courtesy photo.) 

Delivering another speech.  I’m a mover when I talk so hard to get a non-blurred photo. (Courtesy photo.)

In addition to the media training we learned more about ourselves through strengths training, tackling challenging topics, sustainability on each others operations, toured the city and more. We also were required to interact with the city through a scavenger hunt. We were paired with another team member and had to navigate the city and find key locations. One of the requirements was we had to approach and engage in conversations with consumers at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle. It was a great and eye opening experience. Similarly, a few days later, we had the opportunity to visit with farmers and consumers Union Square’s Green Market. GrowNYC has done an amazing job of helping link farmers with consumers and providing urban areas with fresh, locally grown, food options. They also provide training for farmers of all types of backgrounds. You can learn more by clicking this link.

Since space is limited, I will have to wrap this one up. I learned so many valuable skills from this experience. Maybe most importantly, I learned that harvest and New York have more in-common than I would have thought. I plan to use the skills I obtained and the connections I made to help bridge the gap from from rural producers to urban consumers. I was reminded of the importance of listening to truly hear and learn, not to just reply. I think that by finding common ground, we can learn that people, even from vastly different places, really aren’t all that different.

One of the farmers talking to our group at the market. Her family came from Mexico and they have built and amazing farm an business in New York. (Photo by Laura Haffner.)

It was amazing to see all the fresh agriculture products nestled in-between the huge buildings of the city. (Photo by Laura Haffner.)  

I met Allison, at the farmer’s market. We had an amazing conversation about her dreams for becoming a farmer, on recently purchased ground, in retirement. One of the first things she hopes to grow is ginger that she will use to fight inflammation. Our farms couldn’t be any more different but that doesn’t mean one or the other is any less important. We shared a passion for growing food and the science of doing so. I would love to talk to her again someday. (Photo by Laura Haffner.)

Rachel and I were paired for the scavenger hunt. Here we are in Whole Foods about to find shoppers to visit with.   


This is our PAL 11 Class in Times Square. Wheat fields are my jam, but goodness, Times Square packs a fun punch. This was my second trip to the Big Apple, and I love visiting the city. (Photo by Johnna Miller, PAL instructor.)

Lion King on Broadway was a hit with us all. (Photo by Johnna Miller, PAL instructor.)

What a symbol. It’s amazing to think that Ryan’s family would have passed by this spot on their way to farm in Kansas. (Photo by Laura Haffner.)

Laura Haffner can be reached at

All Aboard Wheat Harvest is brought to you by ITC Holdings, CASE IH, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, US Custom Harvesters Inc., Unverferth Mfg. Co. Inc., Lumivia CPL by Corteva Agriscience, Kramer Seed Farms, and High Plains Journal.

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