FAO in North America


World Food Day Discussion: Family Farming in the 21st Century

 To celebrate World Food Day 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with The National Geographic Society, will be organizing a discussion on “Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth – Family Farming in the 21st Century” on 22 October 2014, 12-3pm, at the National Geographic Headquarters, Grosvenor Auditorium, 1600 M Street NW, Washington, D.C.


Click here to read an article about the event and watch videos from the discussion


The event will bring together policy makers, opinion leaders, family farmers and business executives, to explore the role of smallholder farms in the U.S. and around the world. Prof. Sanjaya Rajaram, 2014 World Food Prize Laureate, will provide the key-note speech.

1.  Why Family Farming on World Food Day


World Food Day is celebrated each year on 16 October, the day on which FAO was founded in 1945. The theme for World Food Day in 2014 is: “Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth”.   

Family farming includes all family-based agricultural, forestry, fisheries and livestock activities, and it is linked to several areas of rural development. Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector. There are over 500 million family farms in the world, representing 98% of farm holdings. Their rural activities are managed and operated by a family and rely predominantly on family labor.

Focusing on family farming will help eradicate hunger, protect the environment and contribute to sustainable economic development.

Over 70% of the food insecure population in developing countries live in rural areas, and most of them are small-scale farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In many regions, they are the main producers of the food consumed every day in our meals. To tackle the hunger problem, it will be essential to create an environment where family farmers can feed themselves and their families by their own means, by producing the food they eat and by selling their products on the market.

Family farmers are the stewards of their land. For them, water, land biodiversity and soils are not only a means of production; they are long-term investments for agricultural activities today and in the future. Family farmers know how to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. They can offer solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Despite the fact that they do not enjoy the same level of access to resources, family farmers are innovative, hardworking and efficient. In the U.S., family farms constitute 96 percent of all farms. Working on 78 percent of all farmland, they produce 84 percent of all produce in the U.S., totaling 230 billion USD of sales. In many developing countries, agriculture is the main activity and source of income for a large proportion of the population. Investing in family farming presents a considerable potential for economic development.

The theme of World Food Day has been chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. Several international initiatives signal the increased recognition of the important contribution of family farmers to world food security. The UN General Assembly designated 2014 as the “International Year of Family Farming” and the UN Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge includes of a specific target on improving family farmer’s productivity. Family farming is also high on the domestic agenda in the U.S., as shown by the recent adoption by the U.S. Senate of a resolution designating 2014 as International Year of Family Farming.


2.     Objectives

The objective of the World Food Day event Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth – Family Farming in the 21st Century is to promote awareness of the significant role of family and smallholder farmers in eradicating hunger and poverty, in providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas. In particular, the dialogue will:

a) Develop a common understanding about the role of family farming at the global and domestic levels, today and in the future

b) Provide an overview of the present situation and future challenges and opportunities of family farming in the world and in the U.S.

c) Offer an opportunity to share experiences and knowledge on family farming practices

d) Discuss appropriate policies and enabling environment for sustainable development of family farming


3.     Program

The event will feature two panels, one focusing on the global dimension and another on the situation, role, challenges and opportunities of family farms in the U.S. Panellists comprise representatives from  government, CSO’s, academia, think-tanks, UN, and farmers themselves. Each panel will include a Q&A session.


12:00-12:05pm          Introduction

Declan Moore, Chief Media Officer, National Geographic

12:05-12:10pm            Welcome address

Nicholas Nelson, Director, FAO Liaison Office for North America, Washington, D.C.

12:15-12:35pm            Keynote speech

Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, 2014 World Food Prize Laureate

12:35-1:30pm              Panel: Family Farming – The International Perspective

Moderator: Kaitlin Yarnall, Deputy Creative Director, National Geographic Magazine


-          Christopher Hegadorn, Director, Office of Global Food Security, US State Department

-          Jakob Skoet, Coordinator of SOFA 2014, FAO

-          Roger Thurow, Author, Senior Fellow of the Chicago Council of Global Affairs

-          Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Cargill, Incorporated


1:35-1:45 pm              Keynote speech

Elanor Starmer, National Coordinator and Advisor for Local and Regional Food Systems, USDA

1:45-2:50 pm             Panel: Family Farming in the U.S.

Moderator: Asma Lateef, Director Bread for the World Institute



-          Jake Carter, Southern Belle Farm

-          Roger Johnson, President National Farmers Union 

-          Chris Policinski, President and Chief Executive Officer, Land O’Lakes, Inc.

-          Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Village Acres Farm

-          Elanor Starmer, National Coordinator and Advisor for Local and Regional Food Systems, USDA


2:50-3:00 pm            Closing remarks


To register, click here

To get updates on the program and online participation, visit: www.fao.org/north-america/en/

To read more about World Food Day, visit FAO’s main website: www.fao.org/world-food-day/home/en/

To get engaged and read about other World Food Day activities taking place in North America, visit: www.worldfooddayusa.org/





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