Market News & Headlines >> Brock Consultant Katie Hancock's Blog: A Message To Consumers On National Ag Day

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Insights from Brock Associates Consultant Katie Hancock

In a previous blog, “Why Many Choose Not to Farm (11/4/15)," I received a request in the comment section to speak out beyond the ag community. Challenge accepted. Many of us have been guilty of “preaching to the choir.”  I plan to use my key points to reach out beyond the farming world.

The Commodity Classic in New Orleans was an eye opener to me in terms of advocacy—or, as it is often known in the farm community, “agvocacy.” At first I thought it was a waste to advocate at the Commodity Classic. Aren’t we already supporters of agriculture? Is it overkill? No. It encouraged me to feel pride in what I do and taught me it’s fun to share my story.

We’ve seen numerous articles relating to the threats of consumer mindset and misconceptions. Successful Farming magazine recently published “Your New Boss: The Consumer,” with a young mother in a grocery on the cover. It was a powerful photo. It detailed how consumers will continue to influence practices within the ag community.

This is my message to consumers to start the conversation:

We want you to feel safe. We are feeding the same products to our families and ourselves. If they didn’t seem safe, we wouldn’t grow or eat them. For example, many GMO producers support food labeling because there’s nothing to hide.

We care for the environment. Farmers love the land more than anyone. It’s our livelihood and we can’t afford to abuse it. For example, we are looking to cut back on inputs like chemical and fertilizer. Not only is it cost effective, but we don’t want excess products on our crops or near our homes and communities.

We love our livestock. I personally don’t have livestock, but see the commitment of others in my community to care for the animals. My neighbors are constantly feeding cattle and breaking ice throughout the winter. Friends that have chicken barns stay home throughout the year to be sure the environment is comfortable and controlled. Yes, it’s a productive practice to make a living by keeping livestock safe, but also it’s also respectful.

We’re afraid you don’t support us. Sometimes we feel attacked in the farming world. That makes us shut down and communicate less. For example, there are activist groups that target ag practices, so we tend to forget many of you do support our efforts to feed the world. We need each other, and the farming community is trying to do a better job telling our story. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

We’re jealous of your lifestyle. Yes, we love agriculture and our rural communities, but there are sacrifices to the farming lifestyle. Fancy groceries don’t always exist in rural areas. We don’t have the great choices you do. For example, we not only have limited food selection, but also don’t have the same opportunities you do for education and entertainment. Farmers and ranchers wouldn’t have it any other way, but still we wish we could have the best of both worlds. It’s easy for us to retreat when we feel your situation is already better than ours.

We buy organic too. Some conventional farm families also buy organic products. It’s not because we’re afraid of GMOs or practices in our line of work, but rather we look for high quality products. That may or may not be mean organic. A farmers market, for example, may have fresh quality food you simply can’t find in a store.

We feel farmers markets aren’t sustainable. When I think of a farmers market, it’s more of a small scale opportunity. It’s great to buy fresh, local products, but it’s impossible for the small population of farmers to support food production needs on a small scale. Many farmers in my area grow sweet corn for farmers markets, but we still have to farm conventionally on a large scale to keep up with demand.

Farmers mean well. We want you to ask questions and support us. We have to farm for profit, but can still educate consumers and produce safe goods. I challenge farmers and consumers to communicate more. Again, we need each other. We have common goals. We’ll work to support you and will appreciate support in return.

Email Katie at [email protected]