BEDFORD COUNTY, Pa (WTAJ)– Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding spoke at this year’s Bedford County Chamber of Commerce Farm to Table luncheon Friday afternoon.

This luncheon held at the Bedford County Historical Society connects agriculture with the business communuty. The agriculture industry brings over $135 billion in economic impact to the state and generates activity on 59,000 farms.

Redding was the keynote speaker at the event. He spoke to Bedford County high school students involved with Future Farmers of America. He talked to them about how much their generation would play a role in economic recovery and maintaining the industry.

“It’s important because it provides meaningful employment. We desperately need young people to step into the workforce,” Redding said. “But folks who are also thinking about agriculture as a place of employment. That lead and want to own the land and employ us. So I get excited about it. I’m very honored to be with them.”

The lunch was made by Horn-O-Plenty and Hospitality Spring Farm, who are local farmers in Bedford County. Mandisa Horn, the owner of Horn-O-Plenty Freshtaurant, joined the panel of experts to speak on the industry’s recent challenges and how this generation can change that. She recalls how the supply chain still remains an issue, whether it involves packaging or production.

“It’s an economic infrastructure that we can grow upon even more so with this next generation coming up, hopefully,” Horn said.

“There’s a lot of interest in buying local, supporting local, direct farm sales that’s critically important to economics,” Redding said. “But I think the social fabric of our community. When you consume these foods and support local farms, you connect with the people who are actually feeding you, and it’s really important.”

But the driving point of the lunch was how eating and supporting local would keep the economy local. Redding emphasized how building connections with farmers is a important step, because it shows how much one impacts their success.

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“We want to drive businesses as local as possible because it keeps dollars in this community, and they can reinvest,” Redding said. “They buy the land. They hire people. They add food processing, and to top it off; they’re feeding the community.”