Thompson’s national advocacy has Frederick Co. roots

AFP Correspondent

(May 31, 2016) Hannah Thompson cut her public speaking teeth presenting heifers at 4-H events in Frederick County, Md., and knew she wanted to work with national agriculture after college.
Both sets of her grandparents had run dairy farms before she was born, and her parents kept a hobby farm with horses, chickens “and the occasional sheep or goat” at their home.
“I wanted to do whatever I could with the talents I have to help farmers across the country,” said Thompson, 25, communications director for the national Animal Agriculture Alliance. “That’s why I joined the Alliance. I do what I do because I’m so passionate about animal agriculture — and agriculture in general —and the farmers that spend every day taking care of animals.”
Thompson studied agriculture communications at Ohio State University, recruited there by dairy specialists who’d seen her judge and speak at 4-H and FFA competitions.
She started showing heifers at competitions after family friends from Glad-Ray Farm in Emmitsburg gave her a dairy calf named Joy.
“That was the spark,” said Thompson, who also worked at the farm.
She went on to earn a master’s degree at Ohio State in 2012, also in agriculture communications, and then worked for Farm Credit Mid-America in Louisville, Ky. There, she traveled to the company’s 95 sales offices in four states to assist with their marketing and communications efforts. But she said she always wanted to move closer to her Frederick County roots.
Along with earning a degree at Ohio State, Thompson met her fiancé, Matthew Weeman, who works as a large animal veterinarian in Chestertown, Md.
The couple wanted to move to an area that offered opportunities for both of their careers and decided on Centerville, Md.
Thompson started working for the Alliance a year and a half ago, where she manages communications for the umbrella organization.
Managing messaging for the animal agriculture industry is not an easy task, with campaigns for “Meatless Mondays” running counter to the organization’s goals.
To engage in the public conversation, the Alliance maintains a blog, Animal Ag Engage, that features farmers, 4-H programs and the group’s other events and Thompson also writes an Animal Ag Watch blog focusing on groups fighting against modern food animal production.
Another part of Thompson’s job, is organizing the Alliance’s Annual Stakeholders Summit.
This year’s event on May 5-6 in Arlington, Va., drew more than 200 representatives from the animal agriculture community and throughout the country to the conference.
Thompson said she and Weeman would like to keep a few animals of their own sometime after they get married in August.
For now, she likes staying engaged with the agriculture industry through advocacy, even if that doesn’t mean working full-time on a farm like her grandparents did.
“I think there is a definite trend of people seeking other employment opportunities” outside of full-time farming, Thompson said of her generation. “It can be really difficult to get into the farm. But there’s also a lot of young farmers getting started or joining family operations, which is wonderful to see. Obviously we need a lot of both.”