The Agribusiness Council of Indiana put together a farmer panel for its annual conference this year, held last Thursday and Friday in Indianapolis. The idea was for the assortment of representatives from ag-related business across the state to hear what farmers think on a wide range of topics.
When it comes to consumers wanting to learn more about farm practices and how food is produced, pork producer David Hardin of Hardin Family Farms in Danville says engage with them.
“I personally go out through a speakers’ bureau that our pork industry has,” Hardin said. “I go out and speak with high school groups and try and communicate what modern agriculture is like because of that much less than 2% actively engaged in agricultural production. A generation ago, even if you weren’t on a farm, Uncle Joe had a farm or grandpa had a farm. People could still relate.”
Through the course of engaging with consumers, a farmer can learn much more about what they really value.
“Is it they’re just paying lip service to something because they saw it on Facebook or because their cousin was talking about it at Thanksgiving dinner? Or is it really a trend?”
But Don Lamb of Lamb Farms in Lebanon effectively challenged all vendors to be sure to help farmer customers with the information needed to engage with consumers.
“The industry kind of pushes farmers out there as the people who should be trusted, and we’ve been told and told and told you’ve got to get out there and tell your story. There are times now because of the internet, there’s a lot of technical questions that we don’t know. It’s not just the feel-good stuff that we can tell them and paint them a pretty picture. There’s a very specific question about what does this do in my digestive system. And those are the kind of questions that I’m getting now that kind of scare me and intimidate me. I like the conversations, but there are times now when I don’t know enough of the answers.”
Lamb said DowDuPont reps came to him after the merger stressing they wanted to be on his team when it comes to talking to the public. He said that was the best thing he’s heard from a sales person in a long time.
Also participating were Joe Kelsay, Kelsay Farms in Whiteland, and Jim Kline, Kline Family Farms in Hartford City, Indiana.