Today, Corn Commentary features a guest post written by CommonGround Minnesota volunteer Kristie Swenson. It originally appeared on the Minnesota Cornerstone blog and can be viewed there by clicking here.
Fellow Farmers: Tell Your Story and Meet Growing Consumer Demand for Information
Kristie Swenson is a family farmer in Trimont and CommonGround volunteer.
Recently, I had one of the most intimidating experiences of my entire life: I did multiple live media interviews about agriculture.
Along with three other CommonGround volunteer farm women, I traveled to New York City to give TV and radio interviews about agriculture. During one of the interviews, we rattled off the eight GMO crops, and the interviewer was clearly surprised. “Wow,” he said. “I had no idea there were only eight. It seems like there are many more than that because you hear about it all the time.”
THAT is exactly why it is so important for farmers to be sharing our stories. THAT is exactly why it is so important for farmers to raise our voices and answer questions. And THAT is exactly why it is so important that we, as farmers, become more willing to connect with consumers.
Farmers have an awesome and unique story to tell. How many times have you seen the sun rise in the East, set in the West, and stars fill the night sky – all in the same day? How many times have you planted seeds, waited, and watched for them to break through the ground? How many times have you been one of the VIPs watching (or helping) a mama animal give birth, and then cheering when the newborn gets to its feet for the first time? How many times have your children or grandchildren ridden with you in the tractor and fallen asleep on the buddy seat?
Farmers are blessed with these opportunities. They may seem “normal” or “everyday” to us, but to the average consumer who has never seen an animal being born or ridden in a tractor, these experiences are nothing short of exotic and rare. Farmers are some of the select few who get to see nature’s beauty at her finest hours. We have a deep appreciation for the earth and for the cycle of life. We understand that we need to care for and respect our environment, our soil, and our livestock, because we rely on them for our livelihood.
These are things that can be difficult to understand for the average consumer. The average consumer is bombarded with information and is ill-equipped to sort through it all for a simple, clear, and straightforward answer.
Kristie Swenson, left, recently talked food and farming during a media tour in New York City.
This is where we, as farmers, can answer questions and help clear up the misinformation. Farmers can be – no, farmers should be — the people consumers turn to when they have questions about how food is grown and raised.
What’s stopping us? Too busy? Not interested in that facemail twittergram stuff? Fear?
I can relate to those things. I have two small children, my husband and I farm with my parents, plus I have a full-time job. I’m only on Facebook and LinkedIn, and it is scary for me or my family to be attacked online. But even though speaking up for agriculture can be nerve-wracking, it’s necessary.
I am fiercely proud and honored to have grown up on a farm. I am privileged that my husband and I get to farm the same land that my parents and grandparents farmed. We want our children to have the opportunity to farm. My passion for agriculture and my desire for my children to have the opportunity to farm outweigh the excuses that “I’m too busy”, “I’m not interested in social media”, and “I’m afraid of receiving hateful comments”.
Fellow farmers: Becoming a voice of truth, encouragement, and clarity is critical. Farmers have often responded to consumer demands, and one of those demands now is to simply know more about how food is grown and raised. Most consumers don’t work with it every day; they don’t know what lengths farmers go to raise safe, healthy animals and crops. So let’s meet this demand, answer questions, talk about concerns, and help build understanding in what we do and why we do it.
Will you help me? Will you be a voice for agriculture?
Kristie Swenson is a CommonGround volunteer who farms in Trimont, Minn., and also works as an ag lender. You can follow Kristie on Facebook here.