When consumers weigh in on farm policy

In the July/August edition of Our Ohio magazine, we asked consumers to give us their thoughts on new Food and Drug Administration produce rules intended to improve safety.

In the end, more than 150 people filled out our survey and many submitted additional comments describing their concerns.

I was struck by the diversity of opinion among our nonfarmer members. Some had little confidence in government to protect people, others felt it was government’s role to head off the dangers of what they described as factory farms. Although this was not a scientific survey, the trends in our poll appeared to reflect our current situation: Consumers generally trust farmers but are concerned about the scale of agriculture, genetically modified organisms, pesticides, chemicals and foreign grown foods. They want to know that the food they eat is good for them, and feel that “cheap” food may come at a cost. They prize connections to local farmers and believe that less regulation is needed when the farmer is making the sale.

More than anything, the survey showed that lumping our members together as “consumers” may not do much to help us understand them or engage them. Even though our mission is to forge a partnership between farmers and consumers, it might be more accurately stated that we’re forging partnerships between people — people with unique perspectives and concerns. People like you and me.

Let’s be sure to get to know them.

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