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Source: Global Farmer Network news release

Gina Gutierrez started finding her voice in May of 2015. That's when she decided that as a dairy farmer, she needed to talk to people about the importance of dairy in the diet, and share information to offset those who have an agenda to eliminate the dairy industry. She created the Facebook page La Vida Láctea, which is currently nearing 30,000 followers, to help her tell the story.

On October 16th, we'll recognize Gina as the twelfth Kleckner Award recipient for the work she has done communicating and advocating for agriculture. A few weeks after that, she's headed back to Rome to share her voice in another global discussion about nutrition. Last year she was at the table, representing the Global Farmer Network, in talks hosted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Gina is a 5th generation dairy farmer from central Mexico. She works with her father, a veterinarian who is in charge of animal health and nutrition and her brother, an agronomist, who takes care of the crops. Gina manages the finances of the 420 cow dairy. This includes purchasing. In that role, she has a strong understanding of the big picture, the impact of trade barriers and how the business can be hurt when misinformation is circulated.

Since participating in the 2016 Global Farmer Roundtable and joining the GFN, Gina has begun writing articles for two Mexican dairy magazines and has completed a Master's Degree in Corporate Law. She's able to see the connection between anti-dairy activists and global nutrition. "Anti-dairy groups may interfere with kids drinking milk by scaring people, especially parents.

By doing this, they're affecting the kids' intellectual and physical development because without animal protein, the body doesn't work the same. Milk is a food designed by nature, loaded with nutrition. A well-nurtured childhood is a game changer, so access to safe, affordable food is key to a better future," says Gutierrez.

She says the anti-dairy agenda isn't a big problem in Mexico YET, "because people are starving here and they'd rather buy a liter of milk for $1 US than shell out $5 for some plant based juice." But, Gutierrez says, the fact that more of that kind of thing is coming to the market to serve higher income people causes a rise in food prices all around.

Gina has decided to stop engaging in debates directly with the activists and talk instead to everyday consumers who are interested in learning more about the food they give their families. She talks about things like animal care. "It takes healthy cows to produce good milk. We give them plenty of food and lots of water. We make sure they receive enough rest. When they're pregnant we perform ultrasounds to make sure everything is OK. You might say our cows have their own gynecologists.

Pediatricians like to say that the first one thousand days of life for human children are critical. We focus similar attention on our calves to start them healthy and strong. I make sure our inventories are well stocked and up to date so we can follow a nutritional plan designed by my father and use the feed crops grown by my brother."

The Gutierrez family depends on innovative technologies in all areas of the farm. "We chose solar panels because access to electricity is key for milking and keeping the milk cool," says Gina. "We rely on trade to access many of our supplies, from buying corn, soy and canola to purchasing machinery and farm management software."

Gutierrez says the impact of the dairy sector is huge because it is present all over the world and through many layers of society. "I look for the Kleckner Award to give me an additional platform to reach those layers so we can all work together to improve nutrition and quality of life."

Georgina "Gina" Gutierrez will receive the 2018 Kleckner Award presented by the Global Farmer Network on Tuesday, October 16 in Des Moines, Iowa at a dinner hosted by the Global Farmer Network Foundation. The award is given annually since 2007 and recognizes a global farmer who exemplifies strong leadership, vision and resolve in advancing the rights of all farmers to choose the technology and tools that will improve the quality, quantity and availability of agricultural products around the world.

It was established to honor Dean Kleckner, Chairman Emeritus of the organization. Previous award recipients are Rosalie Ellasus, Philippines (2007); Jeff Bidstrup, Australia (2008); Jim McCarthy, Ireland (2009), Gabriela Cruz, Portugal (2010); Gilbert arap Bor, Kenya (2011) Rajesh Kumar, India (2012) V. Ravichandran, India (2013), Ian Pigott, United Kingdom (2014), Lydia Sasu, Ghana (2015), Maria Beatriz "Pilu" Giraudo, Argentina (2016) and Motlatsi Musi, South Africa (2017).

The Global Farmer Network is a non-profit advocacy group led by farmers from around the world who support free trade and farmers' freedom to choose the tools, technology and strategies they need to maximize productivity and profitability in a sustainable manner. Established in 2000, the Global Farmer Network is committed to inserting farmers' voices in the global dialogue regarding food and nutritional security.

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