by Danielle Beard
Parsons, Kansas —
The 94th Kansas Farm Bureau Annual Meeting was held December 3-5, at the Hilton Garden Inn and Manhattan Conference Center in Manhattan, Kan.
Farm Bureau members from all across the state gathered in Manhattan to participate in agriculture related workshops, attend general meetings to vote on issues and elect new directors in caucuses for each district.
One popular workshop for the second day of the annual meeting was, America’s Pork—Cooking Demo, presented by Jodi Oleen, director of industry relations for the Kansas Pork Association.
Oleen explained that one of the biggest advances the pork industry has made is studying each stage of a pig’s life and specializing barns to fit those needs. In her presentation she shared the three different types of barns a hog farmer uses—breeding/birthing, nursery and finishing barn—with pictures and information about the purpose of each barn as well as how farmers have changed their buildings throughout the years in order to improve the life of the hog.
“It’s all about providing an environment that is best for the hog,” Oleen said. “If a farmer finds a practice that is going to help them save 30 percent more pig-lets, they are going to do it, because to the farmer they feel like it is their responsibility to do so.”
With all the negative publicity the pork industry receives, Oleen explained the importance of hog farmers getting out in the public eye and sharing their stories.
According to Oleen, the Kansas Pork Association has been working to do just that by adding the “Tour a Kansas Farm” option to their Website. This allows consumers to watch videos from pork producers explaining their practices and giving tours of their barns.
“Because of biosecurity issues, consumers can’t just go out and tour a hog farm,” Oleen said. “This gives them the opportunity to put a face with the farmer and have a better understanding of why things like farrowing crates are used.”
The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) also followed suit in stressing the importance of putting a face to the farmer in their workshop titled, “Moving the Movement Forward,” led by Erica Bowser-Poppelreiter, account supervisor, Ketchum North American Corporate Practice and Rodger Wasson, owner and president of Wasson & Associates.
“Our job is to enhance confidence in today’s ag,” Wasson began. “Things are getting tougher and consumers trust us less. While farmers and ranchers are good people, we are looked at as big business. We need to address why they don’t trust us.”
According to Bowser, USFRA is a producer led organization that was created to help change the public perception of agriculture. USFRA uses their campaign “Food Dialogues” to reach the consumer.
“The purpose of Food Dialogues is to help everyone engage in a conversation about agriculture,” Bowser said. “Consumers need to hear farmers and ranchers say they care about what they are doing.”
Wasson explained it is important for farmers and ranchers to learn tools to combat the negative media attention and have the ability to talk to anyone about agriculture.
“Consumers are mostly concerned about the long term health effects of their food supply,” he said. “Because of the misconception between industrial and family farms and the disconnect between farmers and consumers, they are concerned about everything we (farmers and ranchers) do.”
Wasson said the best way to get involved is just to start talking.
“Look for everyday opportunities to talk to others about agriculture,” he said. “An example of that would be like the person sitting next to you on a flight.”
“And drop the ag terminology so anyone can understand what you are talking about,” Bowser added.
“Their eyes are going to glaze over with PowerPoints and flyers about the industry, but when they can tell you’re passionate about what you do, that’s when you’ll get through,” she added.
For more information from the Kansas Farm Bureau annual meeting visit: www.kfb.org, and to learn more about the Kansas Pork Association or USFRA visit www.kspork.org or www.fooddi alogues.com. £