May 5, 2017
We hear time and time again how consumers want to know more about how their foods are produced and where they come from.
We hear over and over about the disconnect between consumer and producer.
We hear survey results that say farmers are the most trusted source of information about food production, that they should be on the forefront of ag literacy, and if possible, open their farms to visitors.
Programs abound to teach farmers how to communicate and advocate for their businesses, and those are good. A lot of commodity promotion dollars are spent on producer training for those farmers interested in reaching out in their communities.
Yet, is consumer interest for information being adequately addressed by individual commodity efforts? This is the model we have been working under for three decades, and we keep growing it. Dairy promotes dairy farming, corn promotes corn, soybeans promote soybeans and so on.
Riverview LLC, a diversified agribusiness based in Morris, has come up with an innovative approach to teaching its community about agriculture. It created a new staff position — community relations and education — and hired a local ag teacher and FFA adviser for the job. Natasha Mortenson has a full plate with on-farm tours, classroom visits and work with students on the farm.
Adding a community relations person to staff is out of reach for most farm businesses and probably not on any owner’s radar, either. However, there are options to support such a venture. Collaborations could be formed by county commodities to support such a person’s work in a region. The new job could entail assisting farmers with on-farm tours, along with promoting ag literacy in schools and local communities.
Promotional dollars already are being raised via commodity checkoffs. It might be time to re-evaluate where those dollars are being spent, especially if they are used to help pay for farmer meetings, meals and special programs or events. There may be funds that could be reallocated for much-needed boots-on-the-ground ag literacy.
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