Breaking New Ground on Food Production

With more Americans growing up in urban and suburban areas, miles from farm life, there is an increasing disconnect between consumers and the people who grow their food.

Published on: Sep 1, 2011

Now, thanks to a program called CommonGround, three Ohio farm women are working to reverse this trend by sharing their personal stories and experiences about farming and the food it provides.

"The lack of knowledge about America's agricultural system has caused some confusion and distrust among people who are concerned about feeding their families safe, healthy food," says Rachel Heimerl, CommonGround volunteer from Licking County. "As a mother myself, I understand their concerns. CommonGround is all about trying to rebuild the confidence in our food system.  To do that, we are working to show the commonalities between real farm families and consumers who benefit from all that farmers grow — to show there is, in fact, CommonGround."

While it started as a national program, CommonGround is coordinated state-by-state. Ohio has now joined this movement and recently held a kickoff dinner Aug. 11 at the historic Amelita Mirolo Barn in Upper Arlington.

Local business and community women leaders were invited to the dinner to have conversations about food and farming while enjoying a delicious meal of locally-produced foods. Topics discussed during the event included everything from when crops are harvested in Ohio and the importance of healthy eating to the size of farms and food safety.

"This was an excellent opportunity to link these wonderful farm women with suburban consumers," says Mary Ann Krauss, Upper Arlington City Council Vice President. "I really enjoyed the evening and look forward to hearing more about the ladies' activities throughout the state."

All CommonGround spokeswomen are volunteers who are passionate about agriculture and want to set the record straight about the facts about farming and food. In every state, including Ohio, there is a diverse mix of farmers represented.

"Throughout all of the CommonGround states, we have volunteers that have thousands of acres and some that have less than one hundred acres," says Gretchen Mossbarger, CommonGround volunteer from Ross County. "We have volunteers who raise animals, some that grow vegetables and others that grow corn and soybeans. We have volunteers that grow organic crops and those that do not.  CommonGround is a program that seeks to bridge the gap between the farmers and the people that buy food.  To do this effectively, we have to be open and real with the people we meet. We just tell them our own stories."

The CommonGround program has launched in five states and is moving forward in six others. Those states include Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota and Ohio. The movement will continue to grow and expand nationwide.

"The best thing about the CommonGround program is that it involves real farm women connecting with other women to talk about any questions and concerns that they may have about food," says Kristin Reese, CommonGround volunteer from Fairfield County. "We are not advocating that people buy a certain kind of product. Our purpose is to introduce people to farmers and make sure they have good, straightforward answers to their food questions so that they can make informed decisions about their food choices and feel good about those choices."

Want to join the conversation? Go to:

Website: www.FindOurCommonGround.com

YouTube: FindOurCommonGround

Twitter: @CommonGroundNow

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CommonGroundNow

CommonGround is a grassroots movement to foster conversation among women – on farms and in cities – about where our food comes from. CommonGround was developed by the United Soybean Board (USB) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) in an effort to give farm women the opportunity to speak with consumers using a wide range of activities. USB and NCGA provide support and a platform for the volunteers to tell their stories. The opinions and statements made by the volunteers are not necessarily representative of the policies and opinions of USB or NCGA.