Perception, reality, farming and food

Written by stevefairchild on .

Today the headline hosepipe delivered a couple stories that remind farmers that however far away from town that they live, there’s still consumer interest right down on the farm. 

Over at the Center for Food Integrity, there was a story about the CFI’s work in understanding consumer perception. It reminded us that indeed, perception is reality when it comes to opinions about food and food production.

 From the CFI piece: 

CFI's 2011 study sought to measure the difference in how consumers perceive different types of farms. The following definitions were provided to survey respondents.  

Family Farmer - A farming operation owned and operated by a family. All decisions on how to operate the farm are made by the family members and carried out by family members or employees.

Commercial Farmer - A farming operation owned by a company and operated by employee farmers. All decisions on how to operate this farm are made by managers of the company and carried out by employees.  

Respondents were asked to rank what they believe the priorities are and what they should be for both family farms and commercial farms. The data shows consumers' priority goals are fairly well-aligned with family farms. Not so much for commercial farms. Consumers believe farm profitability is the second-highest priority for commercial farmers when they believe it should be second to last. There is a lack of alignment on other issues, including farm productivity, environmental sustainability, and the humane treatment of farm animals.   


But bigger family-owned farms increasingly are seen as commercial farms, aren’t they?


Still, that need not mean such farm need to be perceived as commercial or non-family farms.  According to the CFI:


CFI has learned that transparency and effective communication of values can overcome the bias that exists surrounding the size and structure of many of today's farms. The Farmers Feed US website features video interviews of real farmers using modern technology. Surveys of more than 3,000 consumers who have been to the site show 95 percent of them say they consider the farmers to be "knowledgeable, approachable and the kind of person I want producing my food."

 The images on the website show contemporary operations - those that consumers probably consider commercial farms. But transparency coupled with effective communication of shared values can overcome the bias.


Get the whole CFI consumer trust survey here.

Meanwhile, AdAge is reporting that  McDonald’s is stepping up its efforts to identify with the growers who produce food for the chain. The story’s deck: Goal Is to 'Put Face on Quality of the Food’

Sounds like CFI and McDonald’s see the same trend. The writer of the AdAge story quotes Neil Golden, McDonald’s U.S. Chief Marketing Officer:

"We thought putting a face on the quality of the food story would be a unique way to approach this. We acknowledge that there are questions about where our food comes from. I believe we've got an opportunity to accentuate that part of our story." 

McDonald’s will push the campaign through TV, print and digital media and “additional paid and earned media,” according to AdAge.  Featured farmers will be producers of potatoes, lettuce and beef. 

Recall that just a month ago, McDonald’s egg provider, Sparboe Farms was spotlighted by Mercy for Animals. The animal rights pressure group's broadcast of alleged health and animal welfare failures at Sparboe induced McDonald's to drop the egg producer as a supplier. 

McDonald’s is among the largest buyers of meat, milk and eggs in the country. Checkout @McDListenTour on Twitter to see one way the company approaches social media. 






Resources for further reading:

$20,000 per acre

Written by stevefairchild on .

Here is one of those how-high-can-it-go? stories from Iowa. Apparently, one answer is $20,000 per acre. 



Iowa set a new farmland price Wednesday when a 74-acre tract near Hull in Sioux County went for $20,000 per acre.

The buyer was a neighboring farmer, Leland Kaster, who bought the land from Clinton Shinkle of Washington State.

“Farmland is very valuable up here, with good commodity prices and a strong livestock industry,” said auctioneer Pete Pollema of Hull, who called the sale.


There is the appropriate gnashing of teeth about the paralells between now and the 1980s, which are ultimately dismissed—read the rest.

What Iowa soybean farmers told Newt

Written by stevefairchild on .


This is a release from the Iowa Soybean Assciation. I thought it had some good information on how agriculturalists will vet presidential candidates: 

Soybean farmers across Iowa participated in a telephone townhall meeting, speaking directly with Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Tuesday evening. It was the first of several opportunities planned by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) in an effort to focus attention on the critical topics of agricultural policy and trade issues impacting America’s farmers.

ISA has extended the invitation to all major Presidential candidates to participate in telephone calls with Iowa farmers. Former House Speaker Gingrich was the first candidate to accept the invitation.

The questions raised by ISA members during the call aligned closely with the issues that have emerged during the association’s recent District Policy Conferences.

Why you should clear your throat and weigh in on the farm bill...

Written by stevefairchild on .


...because everyone else is.

This e-mail letter came addressed to yours truly, and with some notion that I am a comrade of the folks over at the Concerned Citizens Network. 

On a matter of principle, I've never joined a club or organization with the word "concerned" in its title. "Concerned citizens" steers me to even more skepticism. If you can't bother to say what you're for, why organize? In this case, the cause is veganism. And if you plumb into the depths of the concerned's website, you’ll see that veganism is the answer to a mounting list of humanity's hobgoblins and pinching crises, including our impending doom from climate and trace gasses.

The ruling class likes a crisis. So do the professionally aggrieved. It gives them something important to do and a way to concentrate power to fulfill their world view (or in this case our destiny. Our destiny!)

When the climate is out to kill us, it's necessary to go vegan to rescue ourselves. 

When we're a nation of fatties, veganism is a necessity that must be implemented by fiat and law. 

If it's not veganism, its carbon. If it's not carbon, it's nuclear power. If it's not nuclear power, it's population control. If it's not population control it's deficit control. 

Regardless of the season on earth, Something. Must. Be. Done.


William Pitt the Younger, prime minister of England at the turn of the 19th century burned that straw man for eternity when he said, "Necessity is the plea of every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves."

Here is "my fellow journalist" urging me toward action. I wonder how many "journalists" buy it?:






Food Policy Determines Our Destiny

Dear Fellow Journalist Steve,

If you know of an important solution which could save millions of lives and the world, would you choose to keep quiet or to help to put out  the fire? 

We all want a healthier nation with cleaner water, cleaner air, food free from toxic chemicals and genetic modification, and to curb the climate change crisis. With a huge financial deficit, high unemployment, food security issues, water shortage crisis, and rising health care costs, just one single change in our food policy, we can significantly alleviate each  of the issues above and reset things back to the right track. Now is the time to do it.

The 2012 Farm Bill does not only impact to the future of United States, it also affects the welfare of people all over the world. Tell Congress to start subsidies for Organic Plant Farming. By helping farmers transition and succeed in Organic Plant Farming, United States will build a solid foundation for sustainable agriculture. It is a win win policy for the government, farmers, taxpayers, consumers and the world. This new food policy will determine our destiny.

A good practice goes a long way beyond staying with the law. We urge you to help American recognize the cruel truth about the meat culture. A shift to plant-based Organic Agriculture is the quickest way to restore the health of each American and the health of our Planet. For the continual survival of the human race, food choice is no longer a personal preference.

Join us. Sign the letter today and  share the solution.

For more information, please visit



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