Read any agricultural newsletter, magazine or blog and you will be reminded that every producer needs to share their story with consumers. Telling people about your life and how you work to earn and keep the trust of consumers is critical to your future in the industry. Organizations, commodity groups and Michigan State University Extension have various training programs and educational events available to help you feel more comfortable talking with people who may think differently than you. They also provide tips, tools and resources to help you share your story with consumers.
One of these programs is MSU Extension’s Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF) educational event. Since the inaugural Michigan “Breakfast on the Farm” event was held in 2009 at Dutch Meadows Dairy, in St. Johns, interest in replicating this event led to the formation of four events in 2010 and eight in 2011. To date, more than 22,500 people have attended MSU Extension Breakfast on the Farm programs. Eight breakfasts will be held in 2012 from mid-June to October and they will be spread across Michigan. The farms have been selected and dates and locations will be announced soon. Information on past and future events is available at the Breakfast on the Farm website.
Breakfast on the Farm gives consumers and farm neighbors a first-hand look at modern food production and the farm families who work hard to produce a safe, wholesome food supply for Michigan communities and the world. BOTF is an MSU Extension program that is guided by a statewide advisory council and events are made possible through generous statewide and local sponsors and many local volunteers. Watch for more information on the locations and consider being a part of the local planning committee and/or volunteering to serve as a resource person or volunteer on the day of the event.Between 150 and 200 volunteers will be needed at each event.
Various national and state commodity groups also have several opportunities for producers to learn how to educate their non-farm and city neighbors about agriculture. To highlight a few of them – the National Pork Board offers training through Operation Main Street; the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has an on-line Masters of Beef Advocacy training program; the United Dairy Industry of Michigan and MSU Extension have offered Telling Your Story webinars; Michigan Farm Bureau has the Farmers Care program and the Michigan Ag Council, Michigan Corn Growers and Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee have offered training for agricultural leaders. If you are interested in participating in training, check out these and other ag organizations on their websites.
Today less than 1% of our population works in agriculture and less than 2% of the population lives on farms. Interest in how food is raised is increasing daily even though less than 10% of a U.S. family’s income is spent on food, and there are many opportunities to tell your agriculture story. Many farmers have already sensed the need to reconnect with consumers and are actively telling their story and emphasizing the importance of environmental stewardship, food safety and good animal care practices.
For more information on general ag literacy or the Breakfast on the Farm program contact MSU Extension agriculture literacy educators and Breakfast on the Farm organizers, Mary Dunckel at 989-354-9870 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Nancy Thelen at 734-222-3825 email@example.com.