Thursday, December 2, 2010

Are we still connected?

I'm 20 years old, and a student at The Ohio State University, but I'm a farm kid most importantly. Thanksgiving came and I was able to be thankful for my life and the blessings I have. One of which is my grandmother. Because of her, my family, through my father were able to remain on the family farm and she has supported all of her grandchildren through the years.

I was at a demonstration last night with the American Meat Association. They were working to "mythbust" some of the facts that are presented in the "Food Inc." movie. I learned a lot from the presentation but one thing that stuck in my head was something I've heard plenty before. "We, as Americans are growing farther away from our heritage on the farm." Statistically America is now almost two generations removed from the farm. That means, your co-workers at your office say to you, "yea, we have a family farm. Grandpa used to have cows and chickens and pigs all outside and he would milk the cows. Some of my greatest childhood memories came from the farm." But when asked how often the children of these people go to grandpa's farm the answer is astonishingly low.

As a producer of livestock. This tells me that we, as consumers are disconnecting ourselves from the people who create our food. As producers now, we have both a business and a moral responsibility to the consumer to reconnect them. Consumers have created the market trends we sell livestock under. Consumers wanted leaner pork, so we changed some genetics and moved pigs indoors because their bodies we not fit to be outside in the raw weather the way they had been on "grandpa's farm". But when we put them indoors we didn't do it to hide them from the public. That's not what we want at all!!! We did it because we are humane, ethical and food safe minded people. When we put them inside we also built new ways to control the environment. This means fans & curtains for proper airflow and temperature management. Furnaces and heaters. Constant source of fresh, clean water. We also have the ability to manage animals individually and help make sure they are each living a healthy and safe lifestyle.

I am in the business of feeding people. Human beings, Americans, I would never dream of hurting another man or woman and I can safely say that 98% of HUMANS would agree with me. But how can I connect my message of this, and the message that I want people to be positive that my meat is safe to eat and that the meat case is a safe place to buy food. It starts with one. As an industry (meat production) we have identified this problem and are working within our livestock associations, coalitions and budgets to help fix this problem.  Social media is becoming a popular topic in the meetings of any livestock association. We are increasing the general understanding of these networks within our industry and there are numerous farms and people within the industry writing blogs, making youtube videos, tweeting and interacting on facebook all for the common goal of public connection. and it is working. Every time I talk to a friend who has an urban or city background I bring up some of these simple points and help give them advice on better ways to look at the meat industry.

We shouldn't be quiet, God gave us a voice to use. We shouldn't be shy, the animal rights activists are not shy in hammering against us with biased opinions and publications. But there can be truth in what they say if it is not blown out of proportion. The biggest problem is misconception of a whole industry takes over their mind because of the words of a few people who have a history of being against the industry.

I believe that we can connect to consumers again, we may not get them back to grandpa's farm, but wouldn't it be great if we got them back to OUR FARM. Let them wlak through a dairy, help calve in the spring, feed some pigs in a confinement barn. Similar to the old adage "give me a fish, feed me for a day. Teach me to fish, feed me for a lifetime." We can use our resources within our industry and personal business to help build understanding and a sense of connection and care between the producers, politicians, lawyers and ultimately the consumer.

Here's a list of places you can look for more ways to connect with consumers. These are great sources for consumers to look at because they are designed for the consumer who is curious about their food.

Facebook pages:
Versatile White Meat
Ohio Hog Farmers
Standing Oaks Enterprises
Ohio Dairy Farmers
Ohio Farmers Feed us
Center for consumer freedom
Advocation for agriculture
Cooper Farms

Sitting in a pasture
The Bacon Blogger
Acorns for thoughts
Reflections from a country boy