Jolene Brown discusses current issue of knowing where food comes from
It’s not easy being a cowboy, and sometimes the day-to-day challenges of ranch life can be draining. Keeping things in perspective is important, whether it’s communicating with family members or consumers, and that was the focus for Jolene Brown, CSP, in her inspirational message shared at the 2012 South Dakota Farmer’s Union State Convention on Feb. 17.
Brown, a well-known writer and speaker, is no stranger to agriculture. She is an active partner in her family’s Iowa-based diversified crop operation, and it’s with good-natured humor and learning to laugh at life’s hard knocks, that helps her get through each day. At the meeting, she offered ranchers advice on how to live life by her code.
A fast-paced world fills up each day, which can pose problems if not kept in check.
“We are now in the age of speed with four food groups including: fast food, frozen food, dining out, carry out,” she said. “This is because of our need for everything right now. Technologies have changed everything, especially the pace of our lives. We have become so dependent on technology. Time is precious because the pace has changed. If we don’t take time to smell the roses, we are going to get worn out, burned out, stressed out, and we need to learn to deal.”
Putting the smart phones to the side, it’s important to connect with people. Keeping a link between the farm and the consumer is another important factor to keep as a top priority.
“Everything we do today is monitored and measured,” said Brown. Think about the first case of ‘mad cow disease’ (BSE) in the U.S. The weight on his shoulders must have been great. Did he feel he let down the beef industry? Was he worried about the future of his entire beef cow herd? It’s amazing how the government can follow our every little movement and find anything you want to know about a certain animal because the process has changed behind what we do. The consumer wants to know where their food comes from.”
Food is what agriculture is all about, and consumers are demanding more information when going to the grocery store.
“What are customers really buying?” she asked. “Nobody wants to get sick, and we look at what fills up the shelf space at grocery stores. The top-two most popular products are value-added things like locally-grown, naturally and organic foods, as well as nutritional items like supplements and vitamins. In our local grocery store, there are nutritionists who will help you shop the aisles and help you buy healthy foods. Everyone is buying for health. For me, supporting bio-technology doesn’t mean I’m anti-organic, but we need all kinds of agriculture in America. In agriculture, people have options so let’s label it and label it well.”
In addition to health is another top concern for consumers – safety.
“We have the safest food supply in the world, and communicating that message via blogs, Facebook and Twitter is so important to get the word out there,” she said. “Agriculture can’t afford to use Hollywood to spread our messages, but we can afford social media. Even if you don’t log-in online, we need to support those who do. Every person you meet should be offered a positive experience of who we are in agriculture. Give them a good commercial of American agriculture.”
While farmers and ranchers are doing a great job of producing safe, wholesome, affordable food, Brown stressed the importance of sharing our stories. It’s not rocket-science; she offered some basic advice.
“Remember, when talking to our consumers, people like doing business with people who like what they do,” she said in closing. “When things get tough, accept things you cannot control or change. We may not live to be 100, but we can live 100 percent of our life. If you want to enjoy your journey, associate with people who enjoy theirs.”
Keeping things in perspective, while limiting stress in a fast-paced life can be tough. But, Brown said by keeping in close communication with our family, friends, neighbors and global consumers, the future of agriculture certainly looks bright.