The theme at meetings from thanksgiving through the winter in Hoosier ag circles has been that agriculture needs to tell its story. Mark Henderson, executive director of several commodity organizations, says agriculture ahs a great story to tell. The focus now must be on telling it.
That's why the Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Corn Growers Association, the groups that Henderson serves, plus several others, including Indiana farm Bureau and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, headed by new director, Joe Kelsay, combined to sponsor the Farmers Feed Us program in Indiana. It's a Web-based promotion that allows representative farmers to give visitors to the site a virtual tour of their farm operation, and promote agriculture in general. Find the site at: www.farmersfeedus.org.
Farmers Feed Us as a concept was developed on the national level. Indiana was the fifth state to actually carry out the program. It had the backing of Lt. Governor Becky Skillman, who also serves as Indiana's Secretary of agriculture.
The project debuted on the Web in mid-January for a 90-day run. Eight farmers, one producer per each of various areas, including swine, beef, dairy, poultry, fish, sheep, corn and soybeans, were filmed at their farms. They also did special promotional lead-in activities in front of the camera, including narrating simple quizzes on agricultural facts so that visitors could try their skills.
The carrot to get people to visit is a chance to win one of two $5,000 grocery awards in Indiana. The amount is supposed to represent what it costs in groceries to feed someone for a year. Anyone who visits the site can register through April 11. That's the concluding date for the program. The groceries will be awarded soon afterwards.
Even the Indiana FFA adopted 'How to tell agriculture's story' as one of 10 possible essay topics for students who participate in essay-writing contests at the district and state level. In District V contests a week ago, Mindy Boyer, Clinton Central FFA, Michigantown, placed first, writing on this topic selected by the judges as one students should know about, and be passionate about.
The purpose of the topic is to get students to be creative about ways that they might help tell agriculture's story to people unaware of how productive and efficient and environmentally friendly the industry actually is. The best ideas from contestants last week centered around becoming personally involved, and finding other people to share your story with about agriculture, either one-on-one or by appearing at local organizations seeking speakers, or both.
Let's hope both students and adults follow through on carrying the message to as many areas as possible where agriculture is currently misunderstood.