By Patti Dollarhide, R.D, director of beef value chain alliances
How does life on the farm look to those who are three generations or more removed from production agriculture? More specifically, to those who write about food for a living? That was my burning question before the 2018 Kansas #FarmFoodTour, sponsored by the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Soybean Commission, and the reason I was so thrilled to attend the event. To farmers and ranchers, opening your agricultural business to people armed with social media skills and cameras could be intimidating, especially with the activity fall brings: harvesting crops, moving cattle, hustling to school events and more.
Consumer surveys tell those of us who work in agriculture it is important to connect with our customers and to be transparent about what we do. The Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Soybean Commission made that possible for a group of eight women with expansive social media followings. The women, food and lifestyle bloggers and urban dwellers met, Kansas agriculture head on by devoting an entire week to see for themselves where food comes from and how it is handled.
Check out the hashtag “#FarmFoodTour” on Twitter and Instagram and decide for yourself if the tour had an impact on what the bloggers are now sharing with their readers. There are positive comments, aha moments and beautiful photography. Their photos show what our farmers and ranchers do, and what our consumers sometimes take for granted. Cattle, pigs, children, corn, combines, tractors, pumpkins, pasture flowers, beautiful fresh food and a lifestyle that is difficult to comprehend unless you see it firsthand. Those ladies left Kansas with a new appreciation for who our farmers and ranchers are and what they do.
Coordinators Meagan Cramer, Kansas Farm Bureau, and Jancey Hall, Kansas Soybean Commission, know the power of letting people first look, and then ask questions. Meagan and Jancey recruited Amy France, a Kansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers representative from Marienthal, who shared the farmer’s view throughout the tour. She spoke from the heart as she talked about her own family, the economics of farming and the decision processes that are part of choosing how to produce food. I was ready to talk hormones, antibiotics, low-stress animal handling, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), but the gal next to me wanted to better understand grass, hay bales and why a rancher would move an animal to so many different places on the same farm, let alone sell the animal to someone else. Some lightbulbs came on for all of us during our three-day trek across the state on a Wi-Fi-enabled bus (a necessity for a blogger). I was amazed how they worked to develop their personal brands with their writing styles and photos they posted tirelessly. The bloggers were surprised at farmers’ and ranchers’ vast knowledge from animal husbandry, advanced technology and marketing, to government regulations and politics –– and that they also take on significant personal financial risk.
A special thanks to the tour hosts: Craig and Amy Good, Good Family Farms, Olsburg; Derek and Katie Sawyer, Sawyer Land and Cattle, McPherson; Clint and Amy France, France Family Farms, Marienthal and Scott City; Lee Reeve, Reeve Cattle Company Garden City; Forget-Me-Not Farms Dairy, Cimarron; Matt and Amy Perrier, Dalebanks Angus, Eureka; and Scott Thellman, Juniper Hill Farms, Lawrence. The bloggers saw the passion our farmers and ranchers take in handing down their operations to the next generations and the pride they have in producing safe and wholesome food for the world.
Patti Dollarhide is a registered dietitian and director of the Beef Cattle Institute’s beef value chain alliances.