Let’s Talk About the Ag on Your Plate

 

I’m a mom and I care about what I’m feeding my kids.  How do I learn more about today’s farmer and the food they grow?  Answered by Amy Hansmann, urban mom and Cook County Farm Bureau® volunteer

Years ago, as a mom of a young son with another on the way, I began to wonder about the food I fed my family.  We lived on the 40th floor of a downtown high-rise and walked everywhere.  It was easy to shop at any number of stores, grab milk from the Starbucks and a lot of fun to go to the weekend farmer’s markets.  Because of the topics in the media, the playground conversation and even the labels on food I began to worry about the choices I made- not so much about nutrition, but about food safety, environmental impact and animal welfare. In my urban landscape, far removed from where my food was produced, it seemed best to follow the trends and assume that what the media and my acquaintances were telling me was true: organic was better, conventional food is dripping with chemicals and all meat producers were suspect.

I always felt my educational achievements and current reading list kept me informed, but I began to realize that my information was coming from limited sources. Soon after moving to a new community a few miles away, I learned of the Illinois Farm Families® program and was excited because I value challenging my perspectives and learning new things.  When I toured farms my first day (beef, corn, soy and then a dairy) WOW was I challenged!  As I went on more tours of Illinois farms and associated businesses, the program opened my eyes to the complexities and realities on our farms and the incredible personal investment and passion of farmers.  Ideas that seemed scary in the media made more sense in context and with detail.  Organic, while a perfectly fine choice, is not synonymous with clean, better or healthy.  Insights from farmers on plant and animal breeding were like a fresh course in practical biology.  Even a topic I still find scary, chemical fertilizer, is less so when you realize the applicators are educated, licensed and using it with precision.

Now that I know more about the realities of food production, I have been eager to share my insight and dispel misconceptions.  I think it is important to counter the mainly negative media messages about farming and provide information that is factual and useful for an everyday setting. There are many areas that are not controversial, but many consumers truly don’t know where their food comes from, don’t have access to gardens (even fresh food) or understand that marketing labels are intended to sell food and are not an indicator of quality.

Have a question?  Submit it to bona@cookcfb.org. We’ll share questions with our farmers and publish their answers as space allows in upcoming issues of The Co-Operator.