The value of building consumer trust
Launched in January 2015, Hungry for Truth is an initiative by the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (SDSRPC) to facilitate conversations between farmers and their fellow South Dakotans. They’re putting it all on the table to have open and honest conversations about how our food is produced and its safety.
The power of the consumer
Farmers are a trusted information source for consumers and can be counted on to answer questions.
“We sat down and looked at all the things that affect our producers. We found a big concern was consumers’ perceptions about agriculture, food and farming,” says SDSRPC Chairman Marc Reiner. “The impact of consumer input on how our food is grown and raised is only going to grow. Hungry for Truth is designed to answer those questions from consumers to help them feel more comfortable with what they’re putting on their tables.”
Hungry for Truth focuses on starting a dialogue with consumers, sharing valuable information and providing honest answers, as well as allowing them to bring up concerns. This also helps farmers be better advocates for agriculture and agricultural practices. The more they understand what consumers want to know, the better they can participate in meaningful conversations, educate and encourage trust in our food system.
What consumers want to know
Consumers want to know the food they purchase at the grocery store is safe and nutritious for them and their families, regardless of what marketing claim might be on the label. Hungry for Truth shares information on current food safety topics to help families make informed decisions. The most common concerns are around GMOs and biotechnology, pesticide use, sustainability, and hormones and antibiotics.
“We care about what consumers want to know about agriculture,” says Reiner. “We want to share our story and help them understand that we work hard to provide safe and healthy food in a sustainable manner. We really care about the land and the livestock we work with every day.”
This initiative gives farmers the chance to share information about their own farms, offer their points of view and provide transparency. Hungry for Truth shares personal stories to help consumers connect to where their food comes from. It presents fact-based, reputable research about issues to ensure consumers receive credible information when making decisions.
Starting the conversation
Consumers don’t often make regular trips to the farm, so Hungry for Truth brings the farm to them. Information can be found in a variety of places to spark conversations, raise awareness and engage consumers, such as the Sioux Empire Fair, Main Street Square events in Rapid City, online and on social media, television and billboards, and even movie theaters.
For example, Hungry for Truth hosted a Harvest Lunch last fall that brought together influential bloggers and media representatives from Sioux Falls to meet with farmers over lunch. The goal was to facilitate a conversation about food and farming and build trust with influential partners, enabling them to tell the Hungry for Truth story. This gave farmers the chance to have one-on-one conversations, sharing their farm stories.
South Dakota Soybean Association President Jerry Schmitz attended the event and had the chance to answer consumers’ questions. He was asked if the farming methods our ancestors used were better than what farmers use today.
“I was able to share how I farm and the advancements that allow today’s farmers to grow crops more sustainably and smarter than before,” says Schmitz. “It was a good chance to share how farmers use new technologies like GPS, just like consumers use new technologies in their lives.”
One-on-one conversations like these help consumers make more informed decisions and a give them a better understanding of agriculture in general.
“We reach out to a diverse group of people to have these important conversations,” Reiner says. “We make ourselves available to talk about what we do on the farm and answer questions about what consumers want to know.”
Reinforcing positive perceptions about agricultural practices and food safety requires continued conversations between producers and consumers. Hungry for Truth strives to be a continuing source of information and a place for open dialogue.
“Consumer questions will continue to evolve, just as we evolve with new technologies and practices on our farms,” Reiner says. “Sustaining this initiative allows us to continue this conversation.”
Visit hungryfortruthsd.com to learn more about this important initiative and the farmers behind it.