The time has come and gone to “educate” consumers about what we do on the farm. That’s why corn farmers are investing their corn checkoff dollars, through the IL Corn Marketing Board, to encourage farmers to have conversations with their non-farm neighbors. Listening first, and offering science-based information later, is a key component of building relationships and trust. And that’s what needs to happen before we can turn the tide of public and governmental criticism of Illinois' family farmers.
Here’s an update on the latest work of Illinois Farm Families.
Straight Talk about Food and Farming- We know moms have questions about food. That’s why Illinois Farm Families have been opening our doors to Chicago-area moms (“Field Moms”), recording their farm visits, and posting their questions and conversations on our website, www.watchusgrow.org. We have developed a new area on our website called “Hot Topics.” this area, moms can learn about things like hormones, antibiotics, responsible farming, and animal care. There’s great conversations from our Field Moms and farmers, plus information from resources and experts.
Field Moms Tour Maple Park Hog Farm- On March 10, the Field Moms got their questions answered about hog production during a tour of a modern hog farm and grain operation owned and managed by Chris Gould and his family in Maple Park, IL. The Field Moms recorded their day on the farm by taking photos, videos and journaling their observations. Janeen Johnson, University of Illinois Associate Professor, Stress/Environmental Physiology & Well-being did an excellent job talking to the moms about McDonalds’ and their decision to phase out the use of gestation stalls. Johnson felt their decision was based on marketing and consumer perceptions, not the improved welfare of the animals. She strongly believes that while we have an ethical obligation to find ways to improve sow housing systems, simply banning the use of gestation stalls does not translate to improved well-being of the sow.
The tours are working, giving the moms the chance to form their own opinions. Field Mom Farrah Brown wrote this for her blog, “Here is my bottom line: The Gould's is not an "organic" pig farm. They use gestational stalls to house their sows and farrowing (the term for the sow giving birth) stalls when the sow gets to that point. And some people would shake their head at these facts and say we shouldn't eat meat from these farms. But from what I saw, that is just not true. These pigs seem content and well cared for. The entire Gould family does everything they can do to make the pork that comes from their farm the absolute healthiest and highest quality meat they possibly can. And they are constantly trying to improve. And to me, that is important.” Another Field Mom, Jenn Weiss weighed in and defended us against an anti-animal agriculture blogger who commented on another Field Mom’s blog post. Read the post and Jenn’s reply here:
It was a great day on the Gould farm. Eldon, Sandy, Lynda, and Chris did an outstanding job, as did Janeen Johnson. To learn more about the moms visit at Gould’s farm, click on the link. http://www.watchusgrow.org/Meet-Our-Moms.html
Field Moms’ Acre Program- The moms will be growing soybeans in their backyards and on their patios as part of the Field Moms’ Acre program. The backyard beans are a hands-on way for the city moms and their families to learn what it takes to grow one of the state’s most important agricultural crops. Guiding the Field Moms from planting through harvest are veteran soybean farmers Ron and Deb Moore, Roseville, Ill., who are growing more than 600 acres of soybeans on their family farm this year. One acre of their farmland also will serve as the Field Moms’ Acre throughout the growing season. In early May, the Field Moms will plant their soybeans on the same day as the Moores plant the Field Moms’ Acre. The city soybeans will be watered only when the Moores’ farm receives rain. The Moores and the moms will check in with each other through online video chats to compare crop progress on the farm and in the city. Throughout the experiment, the Field Moms also will learn about soil conditions, weather impact, pest control and the cost of raising and marketing the crop – including seed, fuel and transportation costs -- to sell the soybeans. The moms will tour their Field Moms’ Acre in Roseville on June 9.
Field Moms Summer Tour- We’re working on a schedule that is “full of adventure and learning!” We’ll be taking the Moms to Deb and Ron Moore’s Farm in Roseville, which is located in western Illinois. We’ll also be visiting a grain elevator, taking a trip to the Mississippi river and touring the Monsanto Research Farm.
Illinois Farm Families are Illinois farmers who support Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Illinois Soybean Program Operating Board, and Illinois Beef Association through farmer-funded checkoff or membership programs. We are committed to having conversations with consumers, answering their questions about food, farmers and farming, and sharing what really happens on today’s Illinois family farms. More than 94 percent of Illinois farms are family owned and operated. We are passionate about showing consumers how we grow safe, healthy food for their families, and ours.