Spring is the time when farmers get back out into their fields to start planting the year’s crops.
But U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is planting seeds for the next Farm Bill in 2018 by hosting listening sessions with his staff throughout the state.
On a quintessential spring morning of April 7, Derek and Kamise Mullen, owners and operators of Everitt Farms, hosted members of Bennet’s staff, as well as representatives from such groups as LiveWell Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.
“It’s very early in the process on the Farm Bill, but Bennet thought it was important to get farmers’ thoughts before they get back into the fields,” said Lee Swenson, Bennet’s senior adviser on Colorado rural policy.
The event gave the Mullens the chance to highlight their approach to urban gardening and share why they embraced the agricultural lifestyle.
“Our mission here is return to our traditional urban roots through farming and food,” Derek Mullen told the about 20 people in attendance.
“We have six kids, and trying to feed our whole family a wholesome diet wasn’t working,” Kamise Mullen added. “If we couldn’t do it, how could anyone else?”
The Farm Bill governs the country’s national food and farm policy, including crop insurance, nutrition and conservation, and is typically reauthorized every five years. Lawmakers in the House and Senate agriculture committees, including Bennet, are beginning to develop the next Farm Bill before the current measure expires in late 2018.
The session at Everitt Farms, and the others Bennet is hosting around the state, are an opportunity for stakeholders to have their thoughts heard.
During the session, people spoke about the challenges of getting water, the support needed for small farms, access to grant money and the importance of staying active.
“It needs to start with this group,” said Bill Midcap, director of external affairs with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “We all need to be calling our legislators and letting them know how important agriculture and farming is.”
Alex Funk, policy analyst and staff attorney at the National Young Farmers Coalition, also highlighted the importance of supporting the next generation of farmers.
If there was one message Bennet’s staff could take away from the session, it was that farming and agriculture is vibrantly alive and vitally important.
“Farms produce more than food, and we need to think about that,” said Erik Glenn, executive director with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. “Farms also produce clean air and water — the things we rely on here in the city to live a sustainable life.”