Farmers urged to share what they do with consumers
November 27, 2012
Farmers historically have stayed out of the national conversation about food, but a national movement is trying to change that.
Attendees at the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention in Chantilly learned on Nov. 27 that the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance wants farmers to talk about what they do and share their stories with consumers.
“This is a long-term movement that will probably be an ongoing conversation for the rest of our lives,” said Erika Poppelreiter, a USFRA representative and Kansas farmer. Poppelreiter led one of the educational workshops at the convention.
USFRA was formed to facilitate and initiate national conversations among farmers and consumers. VFBF is among the alliance’s 75 member organizations, which represent a variety of commodity producers.
USFRA enlisted the help of a research group to find out whether farmers’ current messages resonate with consumers. The research found that what farmers say about their industry is ineffective.
For example, Poppelreiter said, the message that most farms are family-owned and family-operated doesn’t resonate with consumers. “What they heard is that farms are beholden to big processors.
“Audiences like farmers, but they don’t like what farmers do,” Poppelreiter said. “They’re concerned about hormones, pesticides and biotechnology; it’s personal, because it’s about their food.”
When farmers acknowledge consumers’ concerns and talk about how they are addressing them, that resonates well with their customers. People want to know how farmers are reducing their pesticide use or using GPS technology to apply fertilizer more precisely.
“Conversations can change opinions and enlighten consumers,” Poppelreiter added. “Look for opportunities to start a conversation everywhere you go.”
She suggested that if a farmer gets into a conversation with someone who wants more information than the farmer can provide, he or she should recommend a credible information source. USFRA’s website at fooddialogues.com offers “Food Source,” a question-and-answer section on farming issues about which consumers have questions. Those issues include animal welfare, water quality and the use of antibiotics on animals raised for food.
“The take-away today is to share your story,” Poppelreiter said.
With nearly 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply. View more convention news as it becomes available at VaFarmBureau.org/NewsVideo/ConventionNewsroom.aspx.
Contact Greg Hicks, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-241-4633.