Raising a Farmer

Alot of work but always room for laughter

Farmers need to be part of the conversation on local foods

on October 11, 2019

This column was originally published in Agweek July 21, 2019

 

I recently was invited to a meeting in town. A meeting that was focused on how to use local foods to better a downtown. How to use local foods to better a community. How to use local foods to create a better food experience. Questions were asked about how to use local foods to address food insecurities and food deserts.

As the meeting began, it was the normal run of the mill go around the room, introduce yourself, why you are there and what local foods mean to you. There were about 50 people in the room.

As attendees went around the room, I listened. I listened to the words they used to describe food, but I listened more to how they introduced themselves. Only about 3, including myself introduce themselves as a farmer or employee of a farm.

Only three. Three.

As I sat there wondering why is that? I looked around the room and paid attention to what organizations were represented. Who in my community are talking about food? I paid attention to what organizations are wanting to take action surrounding food. I kept asking myself, “Why are only 3 farmers here talking about food? Why are only three people introducing themselves first as a farmer? Why?”

The people who are growing, raising and producing the food we eat were not there to listen to what their OWN communities are needing and wanting. Why is that?

In agriculture, we talk about bridging the gap between urban and rural. But I wonder how well of a job are we doing that. As attendees went around the room, I listened very closely to the words they used to describe what local meant to them. Some of the words they used were; healthier, better for us, taste better, fresh, good. I was the only one who mentioned the farmer first.

As a farmer of course my main focus is farmers, but I also listened to the other side. I listened to how foods are viewed in my community. I listened to how urban residents thought foods can be used to better our communities. I believe farmers need to listen more to the other side instead of being defensive or having the mentality “I’m the farmer so you need to listen to me.”

We need to listen more but how are we listening when we are not at the table. We need to listen more to the conversations that are surrounding food in our own communities.

Food is a personal thing. Food is personal to me and my family not just because I am a farmer but because food brings us together. In my household we use the same words urban residents use when we talk about food; better for us, taste good, fresh, healthy.

We may think rural and urban are very different when it comes to talking about food, but we are very similar, we each know what we like and need. They only difference between the two is I am a farmer.

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