Put your best face forward (Editorial)

What does the American farmer look like?
A vast, nationwide effort is under way to answer that question.
It has become apparent that, for the American consumer — the other half of the field-to-fork equation — the “farmer” is too often not recognizable.
The so-called “Faces of Farming” projects are surfacing across the country, in various formats, to inform a largely ag-ignorant culture that, “hey, farmers are just like you and me.”
The latest organization to join this effort is USFRA, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance
At USFRA’s recent “Food Dialogues” event in Los Angeles, the organization announced it wants to help put a real face on agriculture and “shine a light on the heart, personalities and values that are behind today’s food.”
And it’s looking for farmers and ranchers to do just that.
“Many voices are leading conversations about food,” said Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
However, he added, they often leave out people who grow and raise our food “We need to find the best people to be part of these conversations and represent the farmers and ranchers of America,” Stallman said.
To that end, USFRA is looking for “standout farmers and ranchers who are proud of what they do, eager to share their stories of continuous improvement with others and who are actively involved today in sharing those stories.”
Farmers and ranchers who raise a variety of foods differently, at differing scale and in all areas of the country are encouraged to apply.
It’s important to show American agriculture and all of its diversity, Stallman said.
Here’s how it will work:
Entries will be accepted through Sept. 8 Ten to 15 finalists will be announced at the November 2012 “Food Dialogues” event in New York City. That will open a public online voting period where visitors can vote for their favorite candidates. Those votes will be factored into the decision to determine “The Faces of Farming and Ranching.”
Winners will be announced in early January, based on votes and the recommendation of a panel of judges.
The public will get to know the USFRA “Faces” winners through national media interviews, advertising and public appearances.
For their time, they will receive a $10,000 stipend, as well as a $5,000 donation to their preferred agriculture-related or local charity in their name.
Entrants will be required to submit an online application and include a home video of less than three minutes that describes themselves and their farm or ranch.
The most difficult part of this project may be luring farmers into the nomination process. But we sincerely hope that some will surface from the Mid-Atlantic.
The largest consumer marketplace in the nation needs to hear that voice.