We found this blog on the IFB & Affiliates Youth Education in Agriculture website, http://illinoisfarmbureauyouthed.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/wednesday-words-food-dialogues-3/, and believe you will enjoy it.
Last year the USFRA (United States Farmers & Ranchers Alliance) launched Food Dialogues. It is exactly what it says, conversations about food. The people talking are farmers, consumers, scientists, professors, politicians, and modern day Rachel Carsons. This June, Food Dialogues traveled to Los Angeles and tackled the effect pop culture, foodie television, and celebrity chefs have on society’s view of food production. One panel discussed community gardens and another science, technology and food. The latter was my panel. An Illinois corn farmer talking biotechnology in California. (Does that sound like a good idea?)
I joined eight other panelists – a diverse group of California farmers, the California Secretary of Agriculture, a professor of molecular biology, a representative from the University of California and a representative from the Environmental Defense Fund.
We had two hours to tackle “The Great Debate” as the panel was titled. We covered all sorts of topics related to the use of technology and not just biotech, but equipment technology too. Moderated by author Michael Spector, we touched on obesity in the US and hunger in Africa. We tried to define sustainability and GMOs. We suggested new technologies we’d like to see on our farms and talked about “all-natural” versus “conventional” and why such a great divide seems to exist. I don’t know that we solved the world’s problems in those two hours, but I left with a great appreciation for two things:
1) I am glad that I do not farm in California. I say that in complete admiration of them and their ability to manage the plethora of regulations they face daily. California is the most prolific of agriculture states, producing 400 different food products. The Secretary of Agriculture told our group that 800 different organizations represent the farmers and ranchers growing those products. That may explain why California is one of the most heavily regulated agricultural states. Some farms hire an individual just to ensure permits and certificates are in place and rules are being followed. Wow.
2) I am so proud to be a farmer and a part of this movement to open farm gates and invite questions, suggestions and sometimes criticism from our fellow Americans’ dinner plates.For too long we have rested on our laurels, thinking that the “good ole days” ideology would carry us through attacks from extreme activist groups. Well, that obviously is not the case.
Now is the time for every farmer and rancher, young and old, man or woman, FFA member or 4-Her to start listening first and talking second. Listen to what consumers are saying and then ask if they’d like to hear your story – your story of family and farm, planting a seed and harvesting a crop, rescuing a sick calf and tending to an older sow, baling hay in the heat of July and hooking up generators to the barn in winter blizzards. Essentially, we need to engage in our own food dialogue.
Grand Prairie Farms- Lee County