It is no surprise that the population is growing and folks are quite removed from agriculture. (Do I sound like a broke record yet? I feel like I say this all the time….
I think consumers want to know how their food is grown and raised, but they seem to have trouble understanding our practices.
With SO many opinions and bad information floating around in the media, can we really blame consumers for being confused?
I feel for consumers; grocery shopping can be a daunting task these days. You can’t just go to the store and grab something; you have to make sure it is the best for the environment, comes from farmers who care and is healthy.
Let’s start with food labels; does a label tell the truth about a product or is it a marketing ploy?
What about everything you read on the internet; is the story about “factory farms” true or is there a hidden agenda?
Then there is that animal abuse video you saw on the news. Do all farmers act like that or was it just a bad apple that gave the agriculture industry a bad name?
What is the truth and how do you know?
I recently had a chat with a friend who had just watched a particular documentary that really slammed large farms and did not correctly portray conventional farming at all.
My friend had some major concerns after watching the film and was ready to significantly change his grocery shopping habits. Words like factory farms, free-range, grass fed etc. got thrown around.
I totally understood his concerns and- because I love talking Ag and don’t want anyone to have fear when it comes to food-I engaged with him on this topic.
I said to him, “According to that film and many others, our farm would be considered a “factory farm” and we don’t operate like that at all. We treat our cattle with respect and care; they are not just a number”.
“Well”, he replied, “I know you guys though, it’s different. You do a good job”.
He trusted us and believed what we had to share about dairy farming because he knew us and could see it all with his own eyes.
I think I got his wheels turning when I said, “All those farms you see and hear about are operated by farm families and people who care, just like us. In fact, 97% of farms are family owned. Just because you don’t know them, doesn’t mean they are doing something bad.”
Folks, farms come in many shapes and sizes and we need ALL of them to feed the growing population. We also need to allow the agriculture industry to be innovative and use technology.
These farmers are just like you and want what is best for their families, animals and land. Hey, mistakes happen. I’m not saying farmers are perfect, but we are working hard and trying our best…whether you know us or not.
So I wonder, would today’s consumers be more perceptive to modern farming practices if each of them knew at least one farmer? Would their views on controversial topics such as GMOs, antibiotics and pesticides be much different? Would they have less of a struggle in the grocery store? Most of all, would they have peace of mind?
Here is an idea. (It just got brighter in here because a light bulb went off. This idea is a good one)
If you are a farmer or involved in the agriculture industry, reach out to those around you and share what you know about food and farming. Put yourself out there. Perhaps you are waiting in line for your low-fat-mocha-choco-latte-whatever or just chillin’ at the airport. Spark up a conversation with the person next to you and see where it leads.
If you are a consumer, try to get to know your farmers. Don’t just believe everything you read on Facebook. Most farmers are happy to show off their farms and answer your questions, you just have to ask.
Don’t know of any farmers in your area? No problem. The farming folks at Ask the Farmers are ready and waiting to hear from you.
Oh and there is me! Now you know at least one farmer!
Buying groceries and understanding how your food is grown doesn’t have to be confusing, you just have to talk to the right people. 🙂