Rural Reflections: Consumers hungry for answers about ag

Farm Forum

The momentum to tell ag’s story is building as more and more agricultural groups dedicate time and effort to helping consumers understand how food goes from farms and ranches to the plates in their kitchens.

When I was at the S.D. Soybean Outlook conference last week, I talked with Monica McCranie of Claremont who is one of the S.D. Soybean leaders about the South Dakota Soybean initiative called, “Hungry for Truth.”

“As a farmer, outreach is very important to me because we must be able to explain to people what we do in farming, how we do it and why we do it. As a Mom, it’s very important to me because I want to assure the consumers and non-farmers, that I share the same values they do. I want to provide my family with good food.”

Monica said research shows most people in South Dakota have a very good view of agriculture. They trust ag, but they don’t understand a lot of what we do. They want to know if we’re doing what is right for the land. They found that most believe what we’re doing is sustainable. The soybean group wants to be able to explain more to them and address their concerns.

Monica told me, “Yes, they have questions about crop protection products. They have questions about biotech, and they have questions about antibiotics and growth hormones. And those are the topics that will be addressed.”

The group says that they want to put it all on the table with the Hungry for Truth initiative. By having an open dialogue about those things, Monica believes the more open you are, the more trust there will be, and that builds better relationships.

Food and food quality has always been important to her. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest but has been farming for the last 28 years with her husband Mike. She knows there is a huge disconnect between consumers and farming. And this campaign reaches out to more than just moms. The group wants to help both males and females understand this industry.

Marc Reiner, a S.D. soybean board member from Tripp, explained that in January, a concentrated push will reach out to consumers to address some of the concerns about food safety.

As a member of the fifth generation on his farm, he wants there to be a sixth and seventh generation. Consumers have a big say in future of the industry.

Marc said this isn’t just a big city problem; it reaches small towns as well as cities such as Sioux Falls and Rapid City. He told me, “We have to answer people’s questions and let them know we have a safe product and why we use the products that we do.”

Marc anticipates that a lot of great questions will be asked, and he expects to learn a lot from the process. Each family will have different questions and different concerns about how they feed their family.

In his operation, he’s learned a lot from visits by trade groups. When the Reiners opened a new hog facility, they invited neighbors to see the operation and ask questions. He said it is amazing how much you can build a relationship by such actions. We certainly see that when people visit our operation.

The soybean group learned from focus groups in Sioux Falls and Rapid City where they sat down for a serious discussion about food. Food safety is the top concern. The group listened and learned. Those are the questions the soybean leaders want to answer. Engaging in conversations will raise awareness and hopefully lead to a better understanding.

For years, farmers wished that consumers wanted to know more about food than it comes from grocery stores. Consumers are eager to learn that. Marc said there is no better time to have that conversation than by gathering around the table and sharing food. It’s time to feed those who are “Hungry for Truth.”