By Lynnette Wright, Farm Service Agency
The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) annual county committee elections began June 15 and continues through Aug. 1, 2020. Throughout the nomination period, we’ve been introducing county committee members from across the nation. In the final installment of the series, we’ll meet Luke Gianforte of Cazenovia, New York. Luke is currently the chairman of the Madison County FSA Committee.
Luke is the managing partner of Gianforte Farm LLC, an 800-acre certified organic grain farm that grows a variety of small grains and row crops for the food grade market throughout the northeast. They also process some of the farm’s grains to be sold as value-added products such as flour and rolled oats.
Luke returned to the family farm in 2014 after graduating from Cornell University. While reporting his acreage to his local FSA office, he learned that a county committee spot was open for his area, and he decided to run as it seemed like a worthwhile activity.
“The thing I enjoy most about being on the FSA County Committee is being involved in the operation of the local FSA office,” Luke said. “It’s given me a better understanding of how the office works and how to help best serve the producers of the county.”
County committee members are farmers elected by their peers to serve as a direct link between the agricultural community and USDA. Farmers on the committee help deliver FSA farm programs at the local level, help decide the kind of programs their counties will offer, and work to make FSA agricultural programs address local producers’ needs. Each year, FSA accepts nominations for a certain Local Administrative Area (LAA) and the LAA up for election rotates annually.
Gianforte Farm participates in several USDA programs, including the Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, Agriculture Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage program, Conservation Stewardship Program, as well as the most recent FSA programs, the Market Facilitation Program and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
The farm had been planning to scale up its value-added products sales, and with the increased interest in local foods during the coronavirus pandemic, they are fast tracking this plan. They sell their flour and rolled oats through a variety of sources, both locally around central New York, as well as partnering with GrowNYC to sell the products in New York City.
Luke was recently elected to a farmer’s seat on the policy committee of the Organic Farmers Association and he also serves on the Salt City Harvest Farm board, a non-profit farm that works with the New American Community.
“It’s important to be involved with FSA, especially in this part of the country – to have a voice for the diverse agriculture we have in the northeast that doesn’t necessarily match up with what a lot of people consider traditional agriculture,” he said. “FSA has a place for those types of producers as well.”