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By Rebecca French Smith
Last week was both an exciting and disturbing week for agriculture. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance named its inaugural Faces of Farming and Ranching program winners. The four winners are farmers who will be promoting agriculture and talking to consumers about their farms and what they do to make sure the food they raise is done with care.
Missouri Farm Bureau board member and hog farmer Chris Chinn was one of the group. The three others are Will Gilmer from Sulligent, Ala.; Katie Pratt from Dixon, Ill.; and Bo Stone from Rowland, N.C.
When the winners were announced, I began to follow what they were sharing on Twitter. They were all late getting home from Arizona, where the official announcement took place. But they were up the next day before many alarm clocks went off, tending animals and checking equipment. Chris was heading to the hog barns, and Will was milking his cows by 5 a.m.
These are the farmers raising your food, and their farms are typical of what the American farm looks like today. Family farmers are smart and hard-working, but most of all they truly care about and love what they do. They are mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles who attend basketball games and PTA meetings, who are concerned with the economy and governmental regulations and who put food on all of our tables every day. They are the majority, not the bad actors that are held up for consumers to believe are the norm.
Yet, one survey shows consumers are still wary about who to trust when it comes to food, which is somewhat disturbing.
TheDailyMeal.com released its “America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food for 2013” last week, and sadly, the family farmer was listed last behind famous chefs, authors, the First Lady and even Google.
The author confesses, “The family farmers of America — by which we mean the multi-farm entrepreneurs and small-scale independent operators who actually get their hands dirty in American soil — ought to be number one on our list. No one — no distributor or retailer of food, no pesticide manufacturer, no writer or chef or food-themed crusader — ought to have more influence ultimately than the men and women who actually grow our fruits and vegetables and raise our livestock.”
Indeed. We want to help effect that change. In the world of social media, it is easier than ever to get to know the family farmer. Find them on Twitter or Facebook. Look up their videos on YouTube, or look up their online blogs. Ask them questions and find out firsthand how your food is grown and raised. They are your ultimate source for food information, and it’s perfectly okay to use Google to find them.
(Rebecca French Smith of Columbia is a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)