Telling your story

By Charlyn Fargo

I can remember being so surprised a few years ago to learn that in the rural community of Athens, only a handful of school children had any connection to a farm. One of the teachers had won an Ag in the Classroom award from the Illinois Farm Bureau. She had grown up on a farm and had videotaped for her students what it looked like from her father’s combine during harvest.

Apparently, those connections to a farm are few and far between all over the nation.

The average consumer today may be three to four generations removed from the farm, according to Kari Barbic, media specialist for the American Farm Bureau Federation. She recently wrote an article for Illinois Farm Bureau farmers on the five most important things for farmers to tell consumers.

If you’re a farmer, you might want to think about sharing these five things next time you find yourself at a party with non-farmers or want to send a Facebook post or a tweet. Consumers may be removed from the farm, but they’re more interested in ever about knowing how food gets to their tables.

  1. Explain why you grow what you do. One of the most direct ways t help consumers understand the value in all types of agriculture is to hear farmers discuss how they choose to grow what’s on their land. Explain why you grow conventional crops, organic or GMO. Talk about your soils and the climate and how your family participates. The goal is to help consumers understand how all farmers work together to keep healthy and affordable food on the table, Barbic says.
  2. Show how you keep your animals safe and healthy. Most consumers are unaware of the in-depth expertise and careful planning that goes into developing nutrition and treatment plans for livestock. A quick picture on Facebook or Twitter can go a long ways to showing the housing options you have to keep your animals safe and healthy.
  3. Describe what goes into keeping food safe. Food safety is a top concern for consumers, just behind concerns for cost of food, health care and energy. Some 62 percent of consumers polled by the Center for Food Integrity ranked food safety highest on their list of concerns. Farmers need to talk about the strict procedures followed to produce safe and affordable food. Remind consumers you’re feeding what you grow to your family and neighbors.
  4. Discuss how you conserve natural resources. Farmers have a great story of success in reducing environmental impact – from developing plans with the local conservation district to reducing pesticide use through GMO seeds.
  5. Tell your tale of tradition and sustainability. Farmers, whether a first-generation farmer or sixth-generation, know the importance of working together for the good of agriculture. All farmers can share how the choices they make are influenced by years of tradition or a desire to pass the farm legacy on to the next generation.

We need to start sharing our stories.

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About the author

Charlyn Fargo spent 27 years at the State Journal-Register covering agriculture, business and food. She currently is the Bureau Chief of County Fairs & Horse Racing with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She is also a Registered Dietitian and writes a weekly syndicated nutrition column for Creator’s News Service ( and is co-owner of Simply Fair, a fair trade boutique at 2357 W. Monroe in Springfield. She has bachelor’s degrees in agricultural communications and food from the University of Illinois, Champaign and a master’s degree in nutrition from Eastern Illinois University. She and her husband, Brad Ware, have a daughter, Kate, and son, Jayden. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking cookies for Simply From Scratch, a company she formed to support faith-based ministries.

View all articles by Charlyn Fargo

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