It’s often repeated in the wake of recalls that people should “know your farmer.” For those in rural areas, buying direct and other means of direct contact this is easy. However if you live further from the country it’s more difficult – unless you have the tools! Learn about your food safety – how your food is produced by talking directly with farmers. Making it better you can do this from the comfort of the chair you’re sitting in right now as you read this article!
There is an unfortunate disconnect between “farmers” and “consumers” – when reality is farmers are consumers too! They shop at grocery stores, eat at restaurants, occasionally travel to conferences and are increasingly available and WANTING to talk. They want to know your concerns, thoughts, what matters to you.
There are four big ways farmers are reaching out to consumers – and it’s with social media sites you may already be using! Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs are the communication tools of choice.
Facebook is an easy choice. There are groups and pages set up to discuss information such as that from the AgChat foundation, the Truth about Agriculture, Farm2Table, ThankAFarmer, as well as dozens of farms and agriculture organizations with pages.
Twitter is an almost instant response. Tuesday evenings you can follow the very busy #agchat hashtag except for the third Tuesday of each month when the chat is at #foodchat . Both seek to include and engage those who eat in discussions with set topics (suggested by participants) and questions submitted by participants. Farm2U , FollowFarmer and AgChatFound are just a few way to find farmers, many also active on Facebook and other social media sites.
YouTube is an increasingly popular means of communication from farmers, with video stories from the farm that show the farms and farmers themselves. There are videos such as a tour of a family farm hog barn or a dairy farmer spreading “water & poo” teaching about nutrient management for his farm fields from the dairy barn or a small farm sharing their gardens, animals and expansion plans..
Finally there are dozens of active blogs that seek to engage people who are interested in how their food is produced, who is producing it, what is going on in the world of food production at all levels and, perhaps most important, who are these farmers? You can find many through Twitter at the #agblog hashtag or on Facebook posts often at the above sites. Some other blogs can be found through the AgChatFoundation. A few others – from a self professed city girl, CommonSenseAgriculture, Two Generations from the Farm and Advocates For Agriculture. As you begin reading you will see other blogs mentioned that may strike your interest.
There are movies and articles that claim farmers are afraid to talk, or that there’s something to hide somehow. The truth is farmers are eager to share their stories! So much so that recently another Twitter hashtag was started at the Agvocacy 2.0 Conference in Chicago held on August 30-31… #agnerds for those dedicated to agriculture and to sharing it with you!
There is a great deal of misinformation spread by people who have never actually been to a farm. With the use of social media, farmers are telling their stories with complete transparency but critics still aren’t happy. When another “undercover video” or food recall makes the media headlines it often leaves consumers confused. Talk to farmers. Hear their stories. It’s easier than ever and the tools are free! Learn about agriculture at the source. No undercover video needed and it’s not what blanket media judgments accuse. It’s your food supply – and ours! Know your farmer. If you can afford to buy direct by all means exercise that choice. If you can’t at least have sources in the industry to ask. We need farms…they need us. Connect today!