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Suffield Farmer Honored On National Stage

By Shawn R. Beals (The Hartford Courant, 2-15-2010)

  FEBRUARY 15, 2010 --

Resident A Finalist For Excellence In Agriculture Award

A local farmer was recently honored as a finalist for a national agriculture award.

Joanna Samuelson, a 30-year-old part-time farmer, received the American Farm Bureau Association's young farmers and ranchers Excellence in Agriculture award at a national conference in Seattle.

Samuelson raises Jersey dairy cows on her Hill Street farm, and the cows she raises are milked on her fiance's dairy farm in Vermont. She also works for Farm Credit East in Enfield, a bank that deals with farmers, doing market research and analysis and studying farm economics.

She said working at the credit union and raising cows give her a unique view of both sides of the agriculture business.

"[The bank] keeps me up-to-date on the latest and greatest," Samuelson said, and "the daily decisions people make on their farms."

Samuelson was one of 10 finalists for the award, but did not win. Another Connecticut resident, Jamie Jones of Shelton, was a runner-up for the achievement award at the Seattle annual meeting.

For her application in the part-time category, Samuelson said the top three priorities for agriculture were fiscal responsibility, marketing for economic stability and an end to commodity price volatility.

Samuelson was the Connecticut finalist, beating out several other candidates. She then went to Seattle for the Farm Bureau Association's annual conference, where she was grilled by three judges. In addition to questioning her about the three priorities, the judges asked how she would achieve some of her goals.

"We have our market right here," she said. "We can reach out and touch them, and they can reach out and touch us."

Old-fashioned face time in the community and new social media outlets will help farmers market their products, she said.

"Young farmers and ranchers' programs are leadership and development initiatives," said Don Tuller, president of the Connecticut Farm Bureau. "They encourage young farmers to be involved, and they recognize some of the outstanding things the young farmers are doing."

Tuller said the young farmers program, open to farmers between ages 18 and 35, is very important to sustaining viable farms for the future. All the officers of the state farm bureau are former young farmers, he said.

"They are the future of Connecticut agriculture," Tuller said.

The Connecticut Farm Bureau is the state's largest agricultural organization, with 5,000 members. The American Farm Bureau Association has about 6 million.



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