Of Farm Shows and Educating Consumers

Kurt LawtonEducation, Events, Farmers, sustainability

As a agricultural journalist originally from a rural Iowa family farm, who now lives in suburbia close to Minneapolis, I’m always educating urban friends about farming and correcting their misconceptions.

To this end, I applaud anyone in agriculture who takes time to listen and understand consumer thoughts and feelings–without getting defensive about farming practices. If you want to learn good techniques (especially via social media), Michele Payn-Knoper is doing an awesome job educating farmers. Check out the upcoming training seminar.

Right now, as we’re fully into the county fair and soon approaching state fair time of the year, I challenge growers to seek out consumers at these events and help them better understand your role in putting food on their table. Ask questions and truly listen, rather than preach.

Farm shows are another good venue, especially if the show makes an effort to get consumers on the grounds. The upcoming Wisconsin Farm Technology Days farm show near River Falls on July 20-22 has set up special “Courtesy Tours” for consumers.

Jay Richardson, organizer of “Courtesy Tours” is excited about this unique feature of this year’s show: “We love telling our story to the 98% of our population who are not engaged in producing the food they consume. This year we are setting up special tours to educate and answer questions about production agriculture.”

The Applied Technology Education tent will serve as headquarters for a group of almost 50 dairy and crop producers that have volunteered to serve as tour guides of tent city. These producers will take small groups on guided tours along predetermined routes through tent city. Each tour will be about an hour to an hour and a half in length. During that time the participants will be able to ask questions of the guides about the equipment that is on display as well as general questions regarding modern agriculture.

The goal is to reach out to the people that may be attending in hopes of learning more about what it is that dairy and crop producers do and the tools that they use to produce the world’s safest and most abundant supply of food. Even though Farm Technology Days is primarily a show for farmers, many curious non-farmers attend as well. With the close proximity to urban areas, this year’s show in Pierce County hopes to capitalize on its location. “We want to welcome and educate those that might not call a farm ‘home!’”

Tours will leave about every 10 minutes from the Applied Technology Education Tent; starting at 9:30 a.m. with the final tour leaving at 3 p.m. each day.

For more information, please contact Jay Richardson at 715-495-8440 or Liz Doornink at 715-760-1221 or visit www.piercefarmtech.com

Time for other farm shows and country fairs to use this idea! Pass it on.