Those of us in agriculture tend to spend a lot of time preaching. We preach to the choir about how awesome our jobs are because, well, they are. We preach to the congregation about what we do and why we do it because we want to prove that we aren’t heartless, money-grubbing, bottom line-minding corporations out to destroy our food system.
And, truthfully, that’s probably what we’ve been doing wrong all this time. We’ve been preaching when we should have been listening.
To rectify our mistake, farmers have started doing just that — listening to consumers and answering their questions rather than preaching the benefits of modern-day agriculture.
To start the conversation, farm families from the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Beef Association, and Illinois Pork Producers, formed Illinois Farm Families.
Aside from a pretty awesome website that has answers to all kinds of consumer-posted questions, Illinois Farm Families have opened their farm gates to bring urban moms — called Field Moms — onto their farms so they can get a behind-the-scenes look at what farmers do, how they do it and get the answers to all of their questions.
And they mean all of their questions. Nothing is off-limits. If the Field Moms have a question about antibiotics, animal care, biotechnology, pesticides, fertilizer, animal feed or slaughter, they’re welcomed to ask it. And, courtesy of the farmer they’re visiting, they’ll get the answer — straight from the horse’s mouth.
After each tour, the Field Moms blog about their experiences on their own blogs and www.WatchUsGrow.org. And here’s the best part — they can write whatever they want. Whether they liked what they saw or were still on the fence, Illinois Farm Families just want to hear what they learned.
In the second year of the Field Moms program, the 20 Field Moms already have one tour under their belts — a visit to Old Elm Farm Hog Farm, owned by Steve and John Ward.
And the Field Moms blogs are rolling in, which, by itself is pretty cool because it means the Field Moms enjoyed their tour and seeing a farm up close. But, more than that, each of the ladies have some interesting things to say.
One blog in particular, by Field Mom Becky Martinez, is particularly eye-opening. It struck a chord with me because, for the last seven years, Becky and her family have been vegetarians, largely because of animal welfare concerns. She and her family decided fall back into an omnivore lifestyle this January, but Becky still had some concerns.
After her tour of Ward’s farm, she said she felt better about her choice to eat meat. And she felt better about farming practices. Like any well-informed consumer, Becky still has concerns, but she’s glad to know farmers are listening to her concerns.