Those of us who work in agriculture often take it for granted that our society understands and appreciates the important work we do in providing a safe, nutritious and abundant food supply at an affordable price. Up until recently, we haven’t had to work very hard to educate others about what really happens on our nation’s farms. Most of our friends have either
worked on a farm at some point in their life, have a relative who was a farmer, have had an opportunity to attend a “Breakfast on the Farm” event in their community or toured a local farm on a school field trip. We have felt comfortable that they know us, appreciate us and have a good grasp of what agriculture is all about.

However, as our society and agriculture have evolved, the gap in understanding between those of us involved in agriculture and the consumers who benefit from what we do has gotten larger and seems to be growing by the day. People and groups with agendas unfriendly to agriculture are having success in influencing public opinion on food safety, water quality, animal welfare and well established, scientifically-based farming practices. Their narratives seem to be getting some traction with high-powered media outlets and some of the retail stores that provide our food to consumers.

Over the past couple of years, the policy changes being announced by large well-known restaurant chains, grocery stores and food processors regarding what their products are “free from” have become quite alarming. It seems facts and science don’t matter much anymore. Just label something “anti-biotic free” and it’s bound to sell better, even if it’s known by the processor and retailer that all food is required to be anti-biotic free. Injecting fear into the food supply debate serves the interests of the antiagriculture crowd, and it’s becoming a serious problem for those of us who make a living in agriculture.

I, like a lot of you, have been concerned about this growing problem, but just not sure what I could do about it. Until I met Kim Bremmer. Kim is from Greenwood, Wisconsin and was a speaker at a recent ag banking conference I attended. She has taken the responsibility to educate consumers and advocate for agriculture to a whole new level. While Kim has had a successful career as an animal nutritionist, this growing problem with how agriculture is being portrayed to today’s consumer motivated her to the point that she quit her job as a nutritionist and started her own company, Ag Inspirations. Her web site, www.aginspirations.com, does a much better job than I could to explain her approach to this important
educational opportunity. I would consider her to be one of agriculture’s true “myth busters.”

As I listened to Kim’s inspiring approach to advocating for agriculture, I felt compelled to do more than complain to my friends and family about how uninformed the average consumer is about agriculture. Writing this article is my first attempt at trying to make a difference. If this article prompts a couple of people to take their responsibility to educate and advocate more seriously, that’s a small but important start.

I had a chance to ask Kim how she measures success in this important effort, and she said it like this: “Success has to be measure one conversation at a time.” So as each of us feels compelled to take on this assignment, and if we understand the power of multiplication, I think we can make a dent in this important endeavor one person and one conversation at a time. I’ve made a commitment, and I hope you will too. The stakes are high and your help is very much appreciated.

Written by Dave Coggins

Dave is Executive Vice President - Chief Banking Officer of Investors Community Bank. He has been with the bank since 2009 and has over 40 years of lending and leadership experience, including 10 years as president of Business Lending Group and 24 years in various lending and leadership roles in the Farm Credit System. Dave holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He is actively involved in many community/professional organizations, including serving as treasurer and finance committee chair for Progress Lakeshore and a member of the Wisconsin Bankers Association Government Relations Committee. He is also a past chair of the WBA Ag Bankers Section and is currently vice chair of the ABA Ag and Rural Bankers Committee.

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