Collegiate Young Farmers' Farm to Fork Food Dialogues brought a variety of food interests together at once.

Farm to Fork Food Dialogue: A Feast for the Mind

Buckeyes showed up hungry for more than food: they were starving for conversation. What the 250 students got was a feast. 

Students from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences AND main campus came together for the Farm to Fork Food Dialogues over a driving passion for food: how it’s grown, beliefs about food choices, and the moral right to have food period.

Conversations about food are more heated and at times, less that civil. Collegiate Young Farmers (CYF) at OSU wanted to do something about that by uniting the ag campus and partnering with main campus students. 

All ag students were offered EASE training and then challenged: invite five of your non-ag friends to dinner for conversation and a panel discussion. Bring questions! 

It was exciting to see the diversity represented: all majors (math, science, engineering med school, law school, ag business), religious backgrounds, vegan, vegetarian, meat lovers, broccoli haters, conventional food and organic evangelists.

During dinner, students asked each other honest questions about food, explored differences of opinion and shared personal experiences. After 45 minutes of idea sharing, moderator Andy Vance directed live Tweeted questions to panelists Farmer Mike Haley, Dr. Leah Dorman, food blogger Stephanie Eakins, and Chipotle Marketing Strategist Katie Wilkinson.

My Takeaways:

1. People WANT to have honest conversations. Even though Ohio State was playing in March Madness, 250 students showed up AND 75 percent of them stayed after the event was over to continue the conversation (even though the ball game had already started). 

2. Our conversation is about food — not agriculture. Not everyone can relate to agriculture: everyone can relate to food.

3. Vegans/vegetarians and meat lovers, conventional and organic, farmers from large and small farms CAN sit down together and have honest conversations without being defensive

4. Great questions don’t always have definitive answers. It’s not about proving who is right, setting conversational traps for “them” or winning converts. It is about listening, understanding and knowing that it is more than OK – in fact it is wonderful – that people have choices about food.

What were students saying during and after the event?

View tweets from the event 

Listen to Collegiate Young Farmer Kelly Fager describe the event (courtesy of Brownfield)

Read part two: How Ohio State students made a difference and why you should care