Bryce goes to DC

Bryce is on the OAK board (Organic Association of Kentucky), and last week, he and OAK Executive Director Brooke Gentile went to Washington, DC to advocate for organic farmers in Kentucky and nationwide. Bryce dusted off his suit and even bought himself a new tie. Read on to learn about how he experienced this opportunity as an expression of alignment between vision, values and action!

Anna: Tell me a little more about OAK.

Bryce: OAK is building a network of organic farms in Kentucky, advocating for organics at the policy level, building the organic marketplace, doing farmer education and environmental stewardship work…just generally working on all fronts on a path forward for organics. In my opinion and experience, organics provides a good opportunity for Kentucky farmers; it matches our land base, and is a good alternative to tobacco. Yet organic farming is underutilized. This is why lobbying is important: we really want our legislators to understand and value the opportunities for economic development and environmental benefit.

Anna: What was your agenda in DC, and how did your meetings go?

Bryce: The national Organic Farmers Association had convened farmers from all over the country to influence policy on the national level and represent other farmers back home. Brooke and I made a successful team at the state level, so we were excited to go to DC together (last fall, OAK approached the Ag Development Board with a successful application for funding).

We met with Rep. Andy Barr’s and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Ag policy staff, the staff for the House and Senate Ag Committees, and Under Secretary of Agriculture Jenny Lester Moffitt. Our goal was to raise awareness on a variety of issues from conservation and programming to strengthening organic regulations. In particular, we wanted to ensure that as climate legislation moves forward, legislators understand where organics fit in.

The meetings went well, and I was excited to be there and connect with policy makers….to give voice to the cause. We’re a small group of Kentucky farmers, and it felt meaningful for us to have a voice.

Anna: Any other memories you’ll take away?

Bryce: We stayed with all the other farmers at the Franciscan Sisters of Atonement Retreat House. The sisters took good care of us, and we were able to give back a little one night after dinner when the water pipes blew out. One of the farmers ran to Home Depot just before it closed and was able to fashion a gasket. The elder sisters were very appreciative of the farmer ingenuity in the guest house.

USDA Headquarters, Whitten Building

Bryce Baumann, Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt, Dr. Jenny Tucker (National Organic Program Director), Brooke Gentile (Organic Association of Kentucky Executive Director)