Sometimes I am amazed at how little people outside the world of agriculture know about where their food comes from and what it takes to produce that food, particularly vegetables. Some people don’t realize what is involved to get those beans and carrots to the dinner table or how much work went into producing that ready-to-eat bag of salad. Maybe they never really thought about it, or they simply take the food supply in the U.S. for granted.
Years ago when I accompanied my daughter’s preschool class on a field trip to the farm park, one child answered the question: “Where do potatoes come from?” with the response: “the store.”
Dealing With The Disconnect
The disconnect between farm and fork is still an issue growers are actively trying to correct. When speaking with those who are part of our GenNext Growers program (see GenNextGrowers.com), several had very positive things to say about how they and other young growers are trying to educate the public on the food they produce and how it is grown.
For example, Chris Drew of Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville, CA, an operation known for artichoke production, cited the locally grown movement as an example of not only helping the local economy, but educating people on where their food comes from.
Bill Beinlich of Triple B Farms in Monongahela, PA, runs a u-pick operation and a farm market, which provides visitors with some background on production. “I think direct marketing farms like ours are important to help that problem, and we need to present a positive image,” said Beinlich.
John Boelts, of Desert Premium Farms in Yuma, AZ, added that growers need to work together to bridge the disconnect. “Working with our trade organizations, like Farm Bureau, gives us an opportunity to build on each other,” he explained. “That way we’re not just one person out there crying in the wilderness. The strength in numbers idea is very beneficial.”
Boelts went on to say that most people are interested in where their food comes from. “It’s just that those of us in production agriculture need to take the time to make sure that we can satisfy their curiosity properly and thoroughly,” he added.
The Modern Farmer
So when a press release from the Union of Concerned Scientists graced my inbox and talked about how Congress should make “healthy farm” practices a priority when debating the Farm Bill, I took note.
According to this group, U.S. ag is “at a crossroads: continue the polluting, soil-depleting industrialized farming methods of the past or invest in modern practices of the future.”
The gist of the message is that scientists, policy makers, and farmers “must work together to invest in a more sustainable kind of agriculture.”
I couldn’t agree more on investing in sustainable agriculture, but do these folks know that vegetable producers already strive to find new and improved ways to maintain the land by using the latest technology when it comes to irrigation and other farming practices, as well as using cover crops, reduced-risk crop protectants, and the list goes on?
As Boelts said: We need to take the time to satisfy their curiosity and set the record straight. Obviously more work needs to be done.
There is a lot of information out there about farming and farming practices. As we know, some of it is not accurate. It’s time to band together as an industry to make sure the truth is heard.