Farmers invited to build trust at 16th annual Ohio Livestock Coalition meeting

Food safety continues to top consumer concerns about the food system.

The ability to choose what type of food you eat, how it was grown, processed and prepared is considered a God-given right by most Americans; who continue to tell food system leaders (including farmers) they want more information to help make food purchasing decisions.

But who’s calling the shots when it comes to animal welfare? Animal rights activists, retailers, packers, processors, regulators, farm and commodity organizations, livestock farmers or consumers?

Farmers are encouraged to attend the Ohio Livestock Coalition’s (OLC) industry symposium and annual meeting Sept. 6, to gain more insight on this issue and others from presenters such as David Fikes, vice president of consumer/community affairs and communications for the Food Marketing Institute.

Fikes has conviction that humans have a right to food –and a right to safety, information and choice. His areas of responsibility embrace consumer research, animal welfare issues, the challenges of communication and the many ways food retailers serve their local community. His work feeds his fascination with people and deepens his curiosity about how we think, feel, interact and convey our values.

And perhaps that’s where Fikes can help farmers most – sharing how they feel about their values.

When it comes to food issues today, people are more likely to share how they feel. I had a farmer tell me a while back it was my job to be warm and fuzzy, not his. But today I believe it’s everyone’s job to do this, from farm to fork.

Farmers typically talk about food issues like scientists or economists, while consumers tend to talk emotionally and personally about their food. This is one reason why we end up having verbal sparring matches instead of productive conversations about food, farming and agriculture.

One of my favorite TV shows – The Big Bang Theory — demonstrates why trying to trump emotion with facts rarely, if ever, works. Penny wants to know how Howard feels. Howard tries to impress Penny with how much he knows. They like each other – they really like each other – but have a communication issue because one is typically telling the other how they feel while the other one likes to talk about facts.

U. S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) research shows more than 70 percent of Americans have favorable attitudes towards farmers. Yet, only 42 percent have a favorable rating towards how their food is produced. And nearly half say that modern, conventional agriculture is on the wrong track.

So, how does the American and Buckeye brand of agriculture build trust?

It has something to do with shared values, which are typically three-to-five times more important in building trust than demonstrating competence (skills). There will certainly be a lot to gain from a full lineup of speakers elaborate on these topics and more on Sept. 6.


The Ohio Livestock Coalition is accepting reservations ($45/person) for its annual event through August 27.

Click here to download a flier with complete information and registration.