Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at the annual meetings of three county corn and soybean associations in Minnesota. Each meeting was unique — one hosted an ethanol plant tour for its members, another gifted scholarships to high schoolers pursuing careers in agriculture, and the third hosted a community ag gala, which connected area consumers with local farmers and ranchers.
The ag gala was a fantastic event, with several commodity groups including beef, pork, dairy, wine, beer, poultry, soy and corn coming together to share recipes, food facts and answer consumer questions. Each commodity group served appetizers at their individual booths, so attendees were treated to foods like bacon-wrapped tater tots, beef chislic, cheesy pinwheels, ice cream, locally-brewed beer and wine, shrimp, and corn fritters.
Attendees were given a stamp at each booth they visited and were then placed into a drawing for $1,200 worth of free groceries. Before the drawing, I was invited to speak to debunk some common food myths about GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, gestation crates, dehorning, castration and more. Audience members were invited to ask questions, and I received some really thought-provoking questions about whether moms should be concerned about GMOs in baby formula and the difference between cage-free and conventionally-raised eggs, to name a few.
I applaud the Lincoln County Corn and Soybean Association for putting together such an awesome program to connect with local consumers. This was the first year for the gala, and I imagine the event will only continue to grow in future years. I would love to see other groups follow their lead and put together outreach programs like this one.
It’s not very often that several commodity groups come together for one mission, and I’ll admit that sometimes I pigeonhole myself into thinking that the beef industry is isolated from everything else and it becomes my sole focus. However, agriculture is intricately linked, and the crops farmers raise help grow the beef I love.
The target on the backs of poultry, pork and dairy industries could soon turn to the beef cattle industry once animal rights activists decide to intensify their focus on ranchers. Consumer perceptions about one type of farmer or production method often become the blanketed stereotype of the entire agricultural industry.
That’s why I think it’s important to unite more often. If we fall into the trap of pitting one commodity group against another or think that the failure of one group could lead to the success of ours, I fear that isn’t very forward thinking. If agriculture as a whole can come together to foster greater consumer trust, understanding and appreciation for food production, then we all win in my book.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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