Growing Relationships with Urban Legislators

By Sunny Anderson

Geography and large membership places urban county agricultural offices in a unique position to advocate for agriculture to elected officials.

Raghela Scavuzzo, associate director of food systems development at the Illinois Farm Bureau; Lauren Williams, senior associate director of national affairs at the New York Farm Bureau; and Martha Moore, senior vice president of government relations at the Virginia Farm Bureau, recently shared how their organizations connect effectively with municipal decision makers.

Scavuzzo said the ILFB is focused on “growing our community together.”

“What we’re building into our system is more than just ‘taking them to a farm,’ we wanted to build relationships and work on deeper conversations,” she explained.

Williams notes that New York has more than 8 million residents of cities and suburbs with little exposure to agriculture. To set the stage for meaningful conversations between farmers and urban legislators, NYFB hosted a reception in Queens.

“From our perspective, we really wanted to provide an experience for urban legislative members to realize that there are farms in New York that can operate at a commercial level,” Williams said.

Changing focus and using contributions and endorsements helps the VAFB build long-term relationships with legislators. Offering unstructured farm tours while lawmakers travel to party caucus events and providing opportunities to participate in roundtables with members “increases transparency for farmers and builds trust,” Moore said.

Growing Urban Agriculture Webinar Series

Scavuzzo, Williams and Moore participated in a webinar hosted by the American Farm Bureau Federation on growing relationships with urban legislators. The webinar is the second in a series of bi-monthly webinars focusing on opportunities for engagement with farmers and others in urban settings. Webinar recordings and supported materials, such as how-to toolkits and articles on related County Agricultural Bureau programs, are available to members and staff of the University of the Agricultural Bureau’s Agricultural Office. If you are not already registered with FBU, you can register at university.fb.org using the code statefb, replacing “state” with your state’s two-letter postal abbreviation. For example, members in New York would use the code nyfb. Staff should add staff to their record code (statefbstaff), as in nyfbstaff.

Sunny Andersen, a senior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, is an intern in the communications department of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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