Nowadays it seems as if every food, hobby, industry, etc. has a celebration day, week or month.
While I am skeptical of all these holidays for seemingly any reason, Aug. 7 through 13 was National Farmers Market Week, which I believe should be celebrated.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about farmers markets, I see visions of soccer moms and hipsters shopping for organic heirloom tomatoes, all natural (which has no definition, mind you) giant zucchini, dirty radishes, and of course, the elusive local banana. There’s virtually no such thing as a local banana at a U.S. farmers market. Marketing at its best.
The fact that urban folks will often purchase “local” (which also has no definition) food at a premium is just plain annoying to folks like us who understand the efficiencies of modern production agriculture.
However, the farmers selling their products at farmers markets put a face on agriculture, and though the mouth on that face may not always agree with our viewpoints about agriculture production, it still provides consumers with a connection to their food. We need to cultivate, and often correct, those perceptions if production agriculture will continue to grow, as opposed to continue to be attacked.
To be frank, production agriculture does not do a good job of communicating to consumers, and that kills me. We have such great stories to tell, but we’re too busy working 365 days a year feeding the world. I get that, and I have the utmost respect for hard-working farmers, ranchers and growers.
This lack of consumer understanding of conventional agriculture is why the organic market has become so huge. Many consumers genuinely believe organic food is healthier or nutritionally superior to its conventional counterpart.
The lack of communication by production agriculture is also why there are ongoing battles over the use of GMOs in our food system. The average consumer doesn’t know that GMO crops use less water and are more environmentally sustainable. Heck, Congress was even forced to pass federal legislation to fix the disaster of states going rogue and requiring labels on GMO foods. It just goes to show you that what is in the mind of the consumer can have enormous power.
I don’t mean to paint a doom-and-gloom picture for you, but this consumer thirst for knowledge isn’t going away anytime soon especially since consumers are realizing they have the collective power to change the food system, for better or worse.
I commend the farmers and ranchers who are out there on social media or even at their local grocery store, telling their stories about their farm and practices. We need more folks like you, folks to shed light on the misconception of ‘Big Ag’ that many consumers have. I realize there aren’t enough hours in the day to wear all these hats, and it’s a shame.
However, we should embrace that thirst for knowledge and give consumers what they want more information about how their food is grown.
We’ve got to tell our stories more now than ever.
Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.