Five Things Farmers Need to Know about Consumers

My Generation

Day 25 of 30 Days|FIVE Things: biotechnology, cancer, safe, abundant, affordable, transparency...what do those words really mean to consumers?

Published on: November 25, 2013

1. Consumers are concerned about the long-term health effects of biotechnology and pesticides. They're looking at down-the-road diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity, the "unknown." I sat and talked about some of those questions with a group of Chicago field moms during the Larson Farms tour earlier this fall. This is not based on any research and is completely anecdotal, but I shared with them that I really believe if pesticides and biotech were causing cancer we would see exploding rates of it in the farm community. We are the people handling the most concentrated versions of these products. We take all the safety precautions, of course, but still. We are exposed to the bulk of it. And I say this as someone whose farmwife mother died of cancer last year: we just aren't seeing higher cancer rates in our farming communities. Again, anecdotal, not scientific, but it resonated.

Image design by Erin Ehnle, of Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl.
Image design by Erin Ehnle, of Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl.

2. Saying we produce the safest, most abundant food supply in the world doesn't resonate with consumers. When you say safe, they hear short-term safety (which they expect anyway) and when you say abundant, they hear too much food (which is making us obese).

3. They want transparency. This is one of many reasons why I love this blog. He offers up all the details. In PDF form, no less.

4. We need to be less about "telling our story," and more about answering their questions. Ask people what they are concerned about and why. Then explain what you do and how you arrived at those decisions. Sometimes they'll listen and sometimes they won't. You can only do what you can do.

5. Urban consumers are just like us but with less freezer space. They have their own set of unique problems. During our first Moms Meetup with the Illinois Farm Families, Emily Webel and I talked with a woman who lived in a third-floor walk-up apartment. She had two toddlers and had to have her groceries delivered because there was no way she could get all the groceries and all the children up the stairs all at the same time. As Emily wisely observed, "And I thought a detached garage was inconvenient." Yes.

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  1. Rachel says:

    I really liked your point about how there would be outbreaks of cancer in farming communities...I understand that it isn't scientifically proven but it is a good point that makes a large statement. I think people tend to forget that the farmers are handling these products and eating them as well so it is to their benefit to be safe. Also you make a great point if we tell our stories too much this doesn't allow them to give their input or to have a way to ask questions. It definitely is important to see there side and help them understand this way of life through answering their questions. It is very true though at the end of the day we are all the same but with different problems but still we all have problems!