At The Food Dialogues: Chicago event, farmers, ranchers, industry experts and consumers joined in an open discussion about how to get consumers the information they want and need.

Consumers consider many factors when it comes to buying food in a grocery store or a restaurant. Some care about price and taste, others about nutritional value, and still others about animal welfare or production processes. Since these consumers are not one homogenous group, how can farmers and ranchers get them the information they really care about?

Panelist Gene Kahn, former president and CEO of Cascadian Farms, said that labeling is only one of many opportunities for farmers and ranchers to convey information to consumers. He proposed utilizing social media platforms and opening up farms for tours as examples of how transparency can exist across multiple dimensions. Panelist Brad Nelson of Marriot International said that another important aspect of transparency is dropping the “science speak” and talking like real people, presenting information in a way that’s easy to understand.

Ultimately, being transparent is about telling stories and connecting the food we eat with the farmers who grow it. There may not be reporters heading out to the farms to interview farmers about how they grow their crops or movie producers asking to record a day in the life of a rancher, but there are ways that farmers and ranchers can help to build this dialogue. As panelist and USFRA Face of Farming and Ranching, Will Gilmer said, “We farmers might not have a large platform, but if we use all the ones we have, our stories will be told.”

To watch the panel discussion, click here