By Randy Krotz, CEO, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)
Consider this statistic: 2% of people in the U.S. grow and raise food on farms and ranches for the 98% who live in cities, towns, etc. In the past few decades, this gulf has grown wider; many people have never even met a farmer or rancher. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that there are more questions than ever about how food is grown and raised. We (America’s farmers and ranchers) need to contribute more to this ongoing conversation, connecting more directly with the people who are buying and eating the food we grow.
Five years ago, we made a new commitment to be more transparent about how we grow and raise food, and to find new ways to answer your questions. U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is the first organization to bring together the country’s diverse agricultural producers in an alliance with a united goal: continuous improvement and increasing trust in today’s agriculture. Today we’re at 100+ groups, and more are joining all the time.
We made this commitment because a majority of people in the U.S. are three generations removed from the farm – meaning they don’t live and breathe food production every day like we do. At the same time, evolving topics like GMOs, agricultural sustainability, animal welfare, antibiotics and hormones, and pesticides and fertilizers warrant deeper conversation. Because many farmers and ranchers raise animals and make use of these other agricultural tools (and eat the same food as you), we’re in a great position to help answer people’s questions.
One of the things we came to understand before launching USFRA is that people want to hear directly from farmers and ranchers. I grew up on a Midwestern farm, and I’ve had the privilege of traveling around the U.S. on behalf of farmers and ranchers, talking with people about how food is grown and raised. I’m now even more dedicated to ensuring that we have a place at the table in this conversation.
Over the past five years, we’ve made a concerted effort to connect with as many diverse audiences as we can across a variety of mediums. We set out to open the dialogue and increase transparency – and we’ve come a long way in accomplishing that goal.
- Countless farmers and ranchers are developing and sharing videos and web posts, and strive to answer common questions about food production. Digital and social media has empowered farmers and ranchers to be present in a way they never could be before. Many have their own blogs, are active on social media, and participate in live chats and streamed events. The USFRA Facebook page has been one place where we’ve had the privilege of facilitating a vibrant conversation, and we’re approaching half a million followers.
- Back when it all started five years ago, we held our inaugural series of Food Dialogues® events from several locations around the country. Twenty-six times, from coast to coast, we’ve brought together farmers, ranchers, food experts, scientists, media and consumers for dynamic panel discussions on the most pressing topics related to food and food production. These live events have been an incredibly effective medium to bring people together to participate in the conversation. After all, if most Americans have never set foot on a farm or ranch, what better way to close the gap then for farmers and ranchers to meet directly with the consumers of the food we produce?
- One of our proudest achievements has been the production and release of the feature film FARMLAND, an intimate look at the lives of farmers and ranchers in their 20s, all of whom are responsible for running their farming businesses. Projects like FARMLAND truly make a difference in giving a glimpse into food production, and, more importantly, into the people growing and raising that food.
On behalf of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, we encourage you to keep asking questions and engaging in dialogue with us. Come to our farms, talk to us on Twitter and Facebook, and read our blogs. We’re proud of the work we do and the food we produce. We’re excited to keep talking with you about how we grow and raise your food, why we use the tools we have, and help you get the facts. If you haven’t already, I invite you to like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and check out the rest of our website, FoodDialogues.com. You’ll find lots of farmers and ranchers there too.
This dialogue about food is a process, and there is still a lot of work to do. The steps that we’ve taken over the past five years to bridge the divide between consumer and farmer and rancher, and close the information gap about food production in the U.S., has been so significant. We’re committed to continuously improving both how we grow and raise your food and how we communicate with you about it. We look forward to the next five years of dialoguing about food with you!