For Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) Business Development and Compliance Manager Cynthia Haskins, helping farmers direct-market their produce isn’t something that she just happened into when she began working for IFB. In fact, it’s in her blood.
“I grew up on a fruit and vegetable farm in Henderson, Ill., where our family marketed direct-to-consumer and through grocery stores,” Cynthia said. “We had our own retail stand. I remember customers would line up down the street to buy our sweet corn, tomatoes and strawberries. We grew more than that, but those were our traffic builders. My father still farms for farmer’s markets because that’s where he is most happy — growing.”
Today, Cynthia helps develop and implement programs and projects to assist Farm Bureau members and industry with local and regional food business development to grocery and specialty retailers, wholesalers, foodservice, schools and other farm to market outlets such as farmers’ markets, CSAs and roadside stands.
Cynthia also helps make available information and resources regarding marketing, distribution, food hubs, alternative farming practices, and governmental regulation of food safety, labeling, nutrition, and packaging of local and regional food.
“I try my best to ‘meet people where they’re at,'” Cynthia said. “If they are a grocery store that hasn’t purchased from a smaller farmer, they may need assistance in looking at their merchandising plans again. If a farmer has never sold to a grocery store or a restaurant, they may need help in understanding how to sort, grade and pack their product.”
More than anything, Cynthia makes things happen. And nothing is better than that.
“Whether a farmer is a beginning farmer or a seasoned farmer, one thing is for certain, food comes from farmers,” Cynthia said. “The best part of my job is to introduce farmers to buyers and then let them tell the farmer story, whether it is on a display sign in the grocery store or highlighting their name on a menu, or watching someone load up on fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market.”
In the end, when it comes to food, Cynthia hopes consumers remember one thing: it’s okay to eat it.
“We have a safe food system in America,” Cynthia said. “There are so many steps between the time a product is planted and raised to the time it reaches our fork, and yet, it arrives safely. It doesn’t matter whether it was picked down the street or 1,500 miles away, the actual process is pretty much the same. Just remember, as we bow our heads and give thanks for our food, take a moment and thank God for the farmer, too.”
Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.
For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:
- Intro: 30 Days
- Day 1: Managing…everything
- Day 2: Building Relationships
- Day 3: 50/50
- Day 4: Irons in the Fire
- Day 5: Loaded Up and Trucking
- Day 6: Variety is the Spice of Life
- Day 7: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
- Day 8: You have got to start somewhere.
- Day 9: The earth that calls me.
- Day 10: Teaching changes the way I look at things at home.
- Day 11: A Family Affair
- Day 12: Diversification.
- Day 13: Bigger is Better
- Day 14: Working for the Weekend
- Day 15: Three Generations of Pauling Brothers
- Day 16: “Quality and consistency is what makes us great.”
- Day 17: Community Supported Agriculture
- Day 18: “We wouldn’t sell something to our customers that we wouldn’t eat ourselves.”
- Day 19: The kitchen table is still the board room.
- Day 20: It all starts with a seed.
- Day 21: 24/7
- Day 22: Heart and Soul
- Day 23: More than Food, Feed and Fuel
- Day 24: “Farmers are technologically advanced.”