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By LARRY KERSHNER kersh@farm-news.com CHICAGO — Following a Dec. 17 bilateral meeting between the U.S. and China in Chicago, China has approved the Syngenta MIR 162 trait for corn for import. The Dec. 22 announcement was good news for the U.S. corn indust

By Staff | Jan 4, 2015

-Farm News photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby THE BOOTH for the Iowa Food and Family Project at the Iowa State Fair is one of the most effective ways to connect with consumers, said Randy Souder, a Rockwell City-area farmer who serves on the Iowa Soybean Association’s board. Farmers like Souder help children learn about the importance of agriculture and answer consumers’ questions about GMOs, water quality.

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ROCKWELL CITY -More Iowans understand how their food is grown, and they increasingly trust farmers to do a good job growing it, according to a recent survey by the Iowa Food & Family Project survey.

Ninety-five percent of respondents said they are “very” and “somewhat” knowledgeable about how the food they purchase is produced, up 6 percentage points from 2013 and 9 points from 2012.

The survey also found 81 percent of people have a positive impression about farming.

That’s good news to Randy Souder, a Rockwell City-area farmer who serves on the Iowa Soybean Association’s board of directors.

Cristin Clark

“We’re making inroads through the work of the ISA and IFFP.

“We want people to know that farmers want safe, nutritious food, clean water and a healthy environment, just like consumers do.”

The Consumer Pulse survey, conducted by Campaign HQ of Brooklyn, polled 353 health-conscious Iowans who make the majority of their household’s food purchases.

Respondents were queried on a variety of food topics, their familiarity with the Iowa FFP and how that familiarity changes their perceptions about today’s farms and food system.

Fifteen percent of respondents said farmers “do things right regardless of financial benefit,” up 6 percentage points from last year.

Sixty-one percent believe growers “balance doing what’s right” with profit, while just 14 percent think farmers are “driven solely by profit,” down 4 points from last year.

That’s a story worth sharing

These results matter to Cristen Clark, a grain and pig farmer near Runnells. Public perception is influenced by many things, she said, including speculation and a lack of information and transparency.

Therefore, having conversations with Iowans and answering their questions about what farmers do and believe are important.

“There is a concerted effort by families to work the land and care for the livestock in a way that allows us to provide the next generation – our children – with a farm that is just as productive or more productive than how we found it,” said Clark, who volunteers as an Iowa FFP advisory team member. “I take pride in passing on farming for my kids just as my great-grandfather did for me.

“That’s a story I want to share.”

Launched in 2011 by the Iowa Soybean Association, the Food & Family Project facilitates greater confidence among food-minded Iowans about how food is grown and acquaints them with the farmers who grow it.

Partners include Hy-Vee, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Subway, Midwest Dairy Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association and Casey’s General Store.

Programs include “Join my Journey” with Iowa Girl Eats blogger Kristin Porter, in which the popular Des Moines food blogger invites people to follow along as she learns about production agriculture, and “You on the Farm” tours that provide urban residents a chance to experience farm activities.

Iowa FFP is also a presenting sponsor of the Iowa Games and a supporter of Live Healthy Iowa.

The FFP’s booth at the Iowa State Fair is one of the most effective ways to connect with consumers, said Souder, who said he enjoys volunteering at the booth.

“The number of questions we field is phenomenal. Moms especially have a lot of questions about everything from GMOs to water quality.

“It’s good that they can learn the facts directly from farmers.”

Cnsumer connection

Survey results indicate the Food & Family Project’s outreach efforts throughout the year are making a positive difference. People familiar with the Iowa FFP said they are more knowledgeable about farming and have a more favorable impression about production agriculture. They’re:

  • 10 percent more confident that farmers care for the well-being of their livestock.
  • 9 percent more confident that farmers protect the environment.
  • 9 percent more trusting that farmers balance doing what’s right with financial considerations.
  • More likely to pay attention to food labels and seek details about how food is grown.

“What these numbers tell us is that we’re influencing the food influencers,” said Iowa FFP Coordinator Aaron Putze. “Those involved in the Iowa FFP have a passion for helping Iowans be healthier, happier and more informed about the food they love and the farmers who grow it.

“Our work is groundbreaking and the results are real, positive and measureable.”

Paula Hender, of Ankeny, agrees.

As a mother, food safety is at the top of the list when buying groceries. She said she values the opportunity to actively engage in conversations about how food is grown.

This fall, Hender was selected as a You on the Farm contest winner. Hender, husband Derek and sons Jason and Dylan, joined farmers Kevin, Julie, Jacob and Emily Van Manen, of Kellogg, for corn harvesting.

The tour reaffirmed Hender’s view that farmers have her best interest in mind when it comes to providing wholesome food.

“I have concerns just like other moms, and sometimes they lead me to question the choices I make,” she said. “I want to be confident and purchase food that tastes good and is good for my family.

“Connecting with the Food and Family Project and Iowa’s farmers has been very helpful.”

A detailed report on the survey’s findings can be found at www.iowafoodandfamily.com.

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