By Joyce L. Carroll Special to Delaware Business Times
Farming is an $8 billion industry in Delaware, with Sussex County producing more poultry than any other county in the country. Given the value, advocacy is crucial. A farm bureau may provide that function, but equally important is dedicated leadership.
Pam Bakerian brings much to that table. Consider the following: She served 10 years in the state legislature, where she was chair of the agriculture committee. She's been active within the Delaware Farm Bureau since 1998, first as a PR coordinator, and for the past nine years as executive director.
In 2012, she was lauded by the governor's office and state legislature following a Distinguished Service to Agriculture award from the Delaware Farm Bureau.
While a primary role of the bureau is member support, Bakerian has worked hard to promote agriculture from the ground up. With board approval, she initiated a 501(c) (3) nonprofit foundation to increase a positive public perception around farming, beginning with the youngest of consumers.
Thanks to the donation of a cast-aside trailer, the bureau put farming education on wheels and created an Ag Lab. With sponsorships and donations, the lab was equipped with the tools required to educate young minds about the origins of their food. For several summers, it made the rounds to Boys and Girls Clubs around the state.
"In 2017, we launched a pilot program to go into the schools. We visited three schools last year," she said. Full launch was achieved this year, with 10,000 students having participated over the past five years. Other initiatives like the bureau's Ministry of Caring program, a 5K milk run, and a mud run at the Delaware State Fair, further build awareness and visibility. To date, the foundation has donated over $66,000 to provide milk for children, over $7,000 to Neighborhood House, and over $10,000 to the Delaware Food Bank.
As interest in the farm-to-table movement continues to grow, Bakerian knows she has much work left to do.
"The biggest challenge for the Farm Bureau the past two years has been deer management," she said. And, she'd like to encourage further funding of the Ag Land Preservation Program.
All that said, Bakerian is proud of her accomplishments and those of the bureau she serves: "Being that bridge to the agriculture community is rewarding," she said.