With Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair set to kick off today and with a Chicago mom blog making the news recently, it feels like a good time to talk a little about Illinois Farm Families.
It was three years ago on this day that five Illinois farm and commodity groups announced they had banded together to form the Illinois Farm Families program. At that time, it was a first-ever coalition of farm groups: Illinois Pork, Illinois Beef, Illinois Corn, Illinois Soybean and Illinois Farm Bureau. They pooled their resources, hired a marketing agency, researched consumer beliefs and then launched a campaign. Their goal: reach the people who make the food buying decisions.
The cool thing? They learned: A) the people making the food buying decisions in a household are most typically women and often, a mom. And B), those women are most likely to listen to and be influenced by another mom. So Illinois Farm Families recruited a handful of Illinois farm wives to be "Farm Moms." They created an initial meet up in Chicago, which by our standards, seemed ridiculously successful.
From there, they started the Field Moms program. In year one, they took 10 Chicago moms out to farms. They rode in tractors, saw GPS, learned about precision farming, went in a hog confinement, saw a cattle feedlot, talked steak, watched cattle be ultrasounded, walked into a dairy and learned about hormones from a dairy veterinarian. Then they went back home and blogged about what they learned. Even better, those of us who go to know those Chicago moms formed real relationships with them; we've become Facebook friends and we follow each other on Twitter and Instagram. I see pictures of their new babies; they see pictures of our new baby calves. It works out pretty well.
This year, they expanded the Field Mom program and are in the middle of bringing 25 Chicago moms out to farms. They've done several farm tours already and have a couple more to go as harvest kicks off.
Which brings me to this: if you read nothing else today, you owe it to yourself to go read this. Amina Bennett is part of this year's Field Mom class. She visited the Drendel's dairy farm in Hampshire, went home and wrote this blog.
This? Is the entire point of the Illinois Farm Families program. Expose food-buyers to truth and let them draw their own conclusions. I love that Amina laid out her reasoning for buying organic milk (which was strongly influenced by fear-based marketing), then laid out what she learned at the dairy, then laid out why she changed her mind about buying organic. She doesn't bash organic production. But she lays out the facts and explains why she decided organic milk wasn't necessary for her family any longer - in very large part because she would no longer be influenced by the nuances of fear-based marketing.
I have long said that people should have choices and should be able to buy what's right for their family. But please, for the love of all things holy, make that decision based on facts and not fear and misinformation.
That's the beauty of the Illinois Farm Families program. If you're a dues-paying member of any of these five Illinois farm groups, rest assured: your dollars are well-spent.