USDA on Monday began the first in a series of Google+ Hangouts designed to facilitate conversation between the agency and its constituents.
Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden hosted the hangout, a web-based conference call, focusing on new or beginning farmers and the "changing face of agriculture" – a tagline heard several times during the USDA Ag Outlook Forum held last week.
Harden was joined on the hangout by Kate Danner, a corn and soybean farmer from Aledo, Ill., and Alejandro Tecum, representing the group Adelante Mujeres, of Forest Grove, Ore.
Harden encouraged the audience to engage with the panelists throughout the hangout using Twitter and Facebook, also part of an ongoing effort to interact with U.S. farmers and stakeholders through social media.
"Someone entering agriculture today probably needs a lot of different things than my dad did in 1960," said Harden, who grew up on a family farm in Georgia. "We've got to be modern, we've got to be flexible, we've got to be nimble."
Harden added that USDA is making efforts to steer new and beginning farmers in the right direction and ensure that they know what's possible and that, Harden said, "we want to help here at USDA."
During the hangout, Harden addressed the challenges young farmers face when attempting to break into agriculture and the roles these new farmers must fill to make a successful living.
Danner, a fifth-generation farmer, explained that her role on the farm was initially not what she expected – her plan was to earn a living off the farm. However, she soon returned to the farm to assume recordkeeping, planting, scouting and trucking duties on her family's 1,500 acres.
"My goal is to double the farm," Danner explained. "Every generation has doubled … I want to continue on that tradition." Danner noted that her decision to come back to the farm was easy, because she gets to work with her family every day.
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