I Moved to DC to Report on Agriculture and Rural Issues

And I didn’t really know what to expect.

A part of me was excited and mystified that the road from issues blogger to professional reporter was shorter than I could have imagined. Another was excited to have a different platform (and a different medium to master) that could lead to broader conversations about the American food system that we desperately need to have.

Another part of me knew that it was absolutely crazy to walk away from my hard-won startup job and my Bay Area life to move 3,000 miles and become a agriculture and rural issues broadcast journalist for the only 24-hour rural and farming network, RFD-TV.

But it’s a pretty small part.

My decision was, at least partially, the product of a moment. Many of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters are American’s that are familiar with RFD-TV. This job would allow me, for two to five minutes a day, to sit down with people who elected this president and let them know what he, and everyone else on the Hill, are up to. That’s not an offer you get every day.

And then there’s the issues. Farm subsidies. Sustainability. Corn ethanol. Food stamps. GMO labeling. Obesity. Food deserts. Rural broadband. AgTech. Consolidation. Global Hunger. I’ve been on all sides of these conversations; at fancy parties and farmers markets, at small town gas stations and Michelin star restaurants, on the tailgates of trucks, in the cabs of tractors, and right here on Medium. Having these discussion — and doing our utmost to understand and represent all sides — is now my literal day job. That feels like work worth doing.

Despite the raised eyebrows and smirks that I sometimes get when I explain my new gig, recent events have been validating. If last year’s election taught us anything, it’s that rural is not niche, silly, or boring. Rural, agricultural communities are active, vibrant, and motivated. Their voices do, and should, matter. And so does effective journalism. Not just flashy breaking news, but covering the day-to-day grinding of the political wheels. Washington has a tremendous effect not only on American agriculture and rural communities, but on our food system in general.

And it’s time we take a closer look at the decisions (and the decision-makers) who could be effecting the way we eat for years to come.

I will say though, on most days, the issues I cover are, without a doubt, obscure. Case in point:

But consider this. Do you like bees? Monarch butterflies? Think they’re worth having around to show your kids one day or so you can eat the 1/4 of all food on Earth that has to be pollinated? Then this story may not be as obscure as it seems. CRP, the Conservation Reserve Program (part of the Farm Bill, which also funds the SNAP program, or food stamps), is the number one way that farmers are incentivized to protect pollinators. So what does it mean if lawmakers want to cut CRP acres? It could mean less pollinator habitat. Bees are already struggling with colony collapse disorder across the country- so adjusting this program in the 2018 Farm Bill could seriously threaten pollinators everywhere. So, maybe it’s not quite as obscure as it seemed.

At this moment in history, we are being asked to engage. Engage in spite of a scandalous White House and because of it. We can’t allow the rest of the government to go unobserved just because we can’t tear our eyes away from the latest controversy. Lawmakers are crafting our future as we speak, and even though policy news can be, undoubtedly, not as interesting as the freshest Trump debacle, it’s definitely more important.

My goal here is to be part of making food, ag, and rural news more interesting. And to continue having the tough conversations; with farmers, foodies, and everyone in between, all over the country and around the world. There are good solutions out there- not easy solutions or solutions that everyone will agree to, but solutions that can be fair and right anyway. There are so many ways to have an impact in the food system; from the private sector and startups to NGOs and research to getting hands in the dirt yourself. But considering that all of these groups are working towards the same goal, we don’t always communicate very well. I want to be part of doing better.

So I moved to DC to be an agriculture and rural issues reporter. I hope y’all find our reports are interesting and informative. If you want to follow along with some of the highlights online, you can subscribe to our YouTube channel (but I’ll do lots of follow-up and additional stories here on Medium).

And please- be part of the conversation! Want to learn more a policy we cover (or don’t cover)? Tell us. Have a question for an expert in DC? We can track them down for an interview. Feel like we didn’t dig deep enough on an issue? Call us out.

The Farm Bill is coming. If you care about the American Food System- prepare yourself.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this, a click on the green heart below would be wonderful. Looking forward to comments from disagreers! Then, you might enjoy exploring what exactly it means to be a farmer/person. @sarah_k_mock

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