Farm Progress

Another Voice: The changing tastes of consumers come from wanting to know more about their food and its origins.

Willie Vogt 1, Editorial Director, Farm Progress

September 5, 2018

3 Min Read
GET TALKING: Consumer tastes are changing, but at the end of the day, people want good food. How do you build that dialogue?FoxysGraphic/Getty Images

Every day in major business newspapers, there are stories about how food companies are losing out to fast-changing consumer tastes. It appears in a world of busy moms and dads, the prepackaged prepared meals of yesteryear now have to be totally different. Boxed meals of fresh foods to be prepared at home are the wave of the future — since apparently today’s consumer can no longer cut or portion their own ingredients.

Staple foods like canned green beans or soup are now passé. Instead, fresh is in, and even frozen has become “hot,” since that’s as close as you can get to fresh if you’re aiming for “in-season” eating year-round.

Watching food company stocks rise and fall on the latest fads and trends is interesting, but it’s unnerving, too. Yet one thing is clear — today’s consumer is more food-aware than ever before. And what does that mean for farmers?

It’s good that consumers want to know about their food. As a farm community we should encourage the dialogue and help consumers better understand the realities of our business. For the crop farmer, not many consumers know that the moment you put that crop in the field, there are many things in every field that want to kill your crop.

They don’t understand the costs of inputs it takes to hit the yields needed to try to profit at lower prices for everything, from base ingredients like wheat and corn to end-product crops like fruits and vegetables.

Yet in the end, all farmers have one thing in common — the harvest.

In chatting with Erin Fitzgerald, the new CEO for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, recently, she used the phrase “respect the harvest.” It’s an area that this organization, supported by dozens of farm-focused groups, will be focusing on in the next year.

What does respect the harvest mean? It is more focused than “sustainability,” for sure. But one area where consumers can get on board is food waste. “We’re wasting 40% of what we produce in this country,” Fitzgerald comments. “This is something we can all come together on as an issue.”

Makes sense, and respecting the harvest sounds like a good place to start for creating common dialogue among consumers, processors and farmers. While dialogue isn’t always easy, it’s necessary for the future.

The key benefit for you, dear farmer-reader, is that consumers still trust farmers. They want to better understand what’s going on in your fields and in your livestock facilities. The majority of consumers just want simple answers.

Recently, my journalist colleague Max Armstrong offered some advice to farmers. “Befriend a journalist,” he says. “Get to know that new person at the local radio or television station. Invite them out to ride in your combine.”

The reason? Today’s journalists aren’t pushing fake news, but many times they’re trying to better understand and report on a wide range of topics. Reaching out from your farm to that television or radio station with an invitation for a visit is a first step toward sharing your side of the story. You may be shy at first, but you’ll find telling your story to a journalist can be interesting. And most journalists these days list their public email address.

For example, mine is [email protected]. Thanks for reading.

 

About the Author(s)

Willie Vogt 1

Editorial Director, Farm Progress

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