In the United States today, consumers can enjoy an abundance of choices at the grocery store. I’m incredibly thankful for these choices and the producers who make it possible. Yet, with all of these options there can be some confusion about which is actually the “best” choice for myself and my family.
Should I buy grass-fed or grain-fed? Is natural or organic better? Is this GMO-free? What’s a GMO anyway? Should I pay more for free range?
Certainly, it can be confusing to navigate the grocery store aisle and decipher the labeling claims and what they actually mean, especially with so much misinformation swirling around on social media these days.
The reality is that today’s consumer is three or four generations removed from the family farm or ranch. As a society, we no longer have to hunt, fish, gather, grow or harvest our own food for our survival.
And according to Allan Gray, professor of food and agricultural business at Purdue University, today’s agriculture produces 230% more food compared to 1940, but major inputs (land, capital and labor) have only increased by 2%. Gray says, “This is the very definition of sustainability — doing more with less.”
Efficiencies in agriculture have not only allowed us to use fewer inputs to feed a growing planet, but it has also opened up opportunities for society to pursue other interests — art, medicine, literature, science, technology and so much more. Can you imagine a world where we all had to grow our own food to survive?
While this is an incredible achievement, it also has meant that a a society, the gap between urban and rural America continues to grow wider.
However, these days folks genuinely want to know where their food comes from! They want to hear the authentic stories of farmers and ranchers who tend to their land and livestock to produce food for the world! They want to ask questions and make connections and grow a deeper understanding and connection to the land themselves as a result.
That’s why agri-tourism is so huge right now. Families love visiting farmer’s markets, pumpkin patches and apple orchards. They love spending time outside, connecting with the producers and maybe even getting their hands a little dirty as they pick the best gourds from the field to take home with them.
As a mom of three myself, I can relate to all of these feelings. When I walk into the store, I want to put items in my cart that I know are safe, nutritious, tasty and fit within my budget.
And it’s probably only because I grew up on a cattle ranch myself that I can feel so confident that every choice I make — yes, even if it’s the generic, conventional food, not just the highly specialized premium products — is exactly what I’m looking for: safe, nutritious and tasty.
I don’t have to break the bank to meet these priorities, and I don’t have to feel guilty, scared, concerned or confused about my food choices. Why? Because I know every producer in the United States is held to the same standard of excellence. As a whole, producers practice environmental stewardship and best animal handling practices to ultimately ensure the healthfulness of the land, the livestock and the food that every consumer can enjoy!
Yet, this wonderful story about agricultural production is being lost in the void because unfortunately for everyone, activists, politicians and celebrities are doing all of the talking for us these days. Frankly, what they’re saying about us is propaganda that’s used to incite fear and illicit changes in our dietary spending habits.
That’s why I’m so passionate about sharing my agricultural story with anyone who will listen. We need more strong voices to step up and share their agricultural stories, as well.
This could mean posting a photograph from your farm on Facebook, sharing an educational blog post on Twitter or responding to a negative article you see in the mainstream media. It means stepping outside of our comfort zones and inviting questions from those who may view the world differently than we do.
Because at the end of the day, whether you’re a producer or a consumer, we all want to feel good about our food and where it comes from. It starts by making connections and bridging the gap. Are you ready to share your story?