MASON CITY - They came by the hundreds to enjoy omelets and rub elbows with farmers and neighbors.
The 35th annual ag breakfast was held March 22 at the All Seasons Building on the North Iowa Events Center, west of Mason City.
The breakfast is sponsored by Mason City Chamber of Commerce's Agribusiness Committee.
CRISTEN CLARK, whose family farms and raises hogs near Runnells, east of Des Moines, was the March 22 keynote speaker at the annual ag breakfast.
It is always held on the first day of spring as a kickoff of a new crop year as a show of appreciation to area farmers by the area's business leaders.
Thirty-five businesses sponsored tables and 19 donated products for the meal of omelets prepared by members of the Chamber's Agribusiness Committee.
It has been a popular event with 400 to 500 typically in attendance.
A program followed the meal with speakers IA Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and farmer-blogger Cristen Clark, of Runnells.
A Generation Award was presented to the farming family having the most generations present that morning. The winning family had four generations present.
Secretary Northey's comments covered the subjects of production, technology, productivity and personality.
"The world still needs the things we produce," said Northey about production.
"Iowa has had more pigs than people for over 100 years."
After a meal of omelets, Northey told the crowd that Iowa produces 17 eggs per Iowan every day.
Technology has made larger equipment possible with less environmental impact according to Northey.
"It's why we have phenomenal production," he said.
Our productivity is due to what we have because of our location.
"It's not as easy in the rest of the world," he said.
Northey said his favorite day of the year is when Century Farm and Heritage Farm awards are given at the state fair.
"There's lots of emotion, lots of pride," said Northey.
"We are fortunate to be in the business we're in and with the people we're in," said Northey as he concluded his presentation.
Keynote speaker Cristen Clark farms with her family as a fifth generation farmer and writes a blog titled, "Food and Swine."
The Clark family farm will be recognized as a Heritage Farm in 2019.
She began her speech talking about life growing up on a farm.
"You got to work hard," she said. "There are high expectations for farm kids."
"Our gender did not define us."
Clark's speech emphasized the importance of telling farming's story to people who do not know about farming.
Her first point was to step forward. Promote what you grow and make a relationship with people who want to know about farming.
Secondly, Clark told the crowd to be relatable.
"Don't be afraid to share your story," she said. "My farm, my story."
Clark cautioned the attendees saying, "Don't educate them. Let them ask."
Clark uses social media to get her message out and as a way to "elevate our voice."
She uses Snap Chat because, "People like behind the scenes."
Her third point was to be a resource.
She referred to the Iowa Food and Family Project. People want to know if their food is safe and affordable.
Clark cited a Center for Food Integrity statistic that says 55 percent of people think the U.S. food system is moving in the right direction and 80 percent have an interest in knowing about farming.
"People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it," said Cristen Clark.
In answering the question of why we are farming, Cristen Clark said we are farming for our families.