CommonGround: Tools for farm women to share their stories
April 1, 2011
Consumers today are curious to learn more about where their food comes; yet, everyday consumers are bombarded with misconceptions about farming and ranching. CommonGround is a partnership between the United Soybean Board (USB) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) aimed at creating a unified voice for modern agriculture. It’s an effort to tell the true story – that thanks to modern American farmers, U.S. families enjoy the safest, healthiest and most affordable food choices in the world.
A group of South Dakota farm women have volunteered to be a part of CommonGround to share their personal stories and educate consumers about the people behind the produce. Information on the program can be found at http://www.findourcommonground.com, and interested producers can find the resources to get involved.
On March 26, the South Dakota group went through an extensive training program to prepare for classroom visits, media interviews, speaking engagements and other educational opportunities to work with students, moms and busy families. Members of the group include Dawn Scheier, a corn and soybeans farmer from Salem; Laura Nielson, a dairy producer from Crooks; Sarah Vandervliet, a cattle rancher from Humboldt; Nicolien Hammink, a dairy producer from Bruce; Peggy Greenway, a pork, beef and grains farmer from Mitchell; Morgan Kontz, a cattle and grains producer from Colman; and Amanda Folkens, a pork producer from Rock Rapids, IA.
“I have always been passionate about agriculture and felt this was the perfect opportunity to create a conversation with consumers,” said Kontz, whose family raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay, as well as running a cow-calf and feedlot operation. “Through CommonGround, I have the opportunity to tell my own personal story of what it’s like to be a first generation farm wife. I believe agriculture is the backbone of our nation, and we strive to supply the consumer with a safe, healthy and abundant product. Now, more than ever, people have increasing concerns about where their food comes from and how it is produced. As a farmer, I’m excited to share that information with the public and talk about our modern day farming practices.”
Kontz practices what she preaches. Originally from Indiana, Morgan met her husband online and now lives and works on the family farm in South Dakota. She chronicles her adventures on her blog, Stories of a First Generation Farm Wife, which can be found at http://www.sdfarmwife.blogspot.com.
“It has been enlightening and also inspiring to write about my own journey as a first-time farm wife, and I enjoy sharing my life with consumers who may not know what life is like on a modern day beef farm,” said Kontz. “As a group of farm women, we look at CommonGround as a support system as we begin this journey of sharing our personal stories. We aim to have a relationship with the consumer, and that’s what the program is all about. By telling our stories, we are allowing people into the hearts of our farms. With this new relationship, we hope to increase the understanding of operations on a modern day farm. We want to provide consumers with the information they need to make the best decisions for their family.”
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The training session encouraged the ranch women in CommonGround to get active online. In addition to Kontz’s blog, another great example of sharing the agriculture story through social networking is Laura Nielson’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/therealfarmgirl. In addition to online training, volunteers will attend various trade shows and events throughout the state, including the Brown County Health Fair in Aberdeen on April 30, and the SME Women in Business event in Sioux Falls on April 26.
“The typical audience we are targeting right now is mothers and fathers across the state who do the grocery shopping for their families; we feel that those doing the grocery shopping may have the most questions about where their food comes from,” explained Kontz. “CommonGround is the perfect opportunity for all producers to get involved. If we are all telling the story of why we love our land, animals, and the world of agriculture, consumers will see us in a positive light, but, more importantly, see us on the same level as them. Farmers also aim to feed our own families a safe and healthy product. It’s important for us to tell our stories, because if we don’t, who will?”
The USB and NCGA organizations have teamed up with soy and corn organizations in the state to create a large grassroots movement to put farmers in front of consumers with information about modern farming and the people behind it. This is an important investment that provides the resources and tools needed for farmers and ranchers to share their stories. Watch for the CommonGround women in South Dakota to come to an area near you. They are willing and able to get the job done.