Thursday, January 28, 2016

CommonGround - Connecting With Consumers

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have the wonderful opportunity to volunteer for CommonGround. This is a joint initiative of the National Corn Growers Association(NCGA) and the United Soybean Board(USB) and we are funded by our own farmers by our checkoff dollars. We are a group of women involved in agriculture in many different capacities and are trying bridge the gap between consumers and farmers - those who eat the food and those who grow it and primarily focus on women to women conversations, as they are typically the food decision makers and purchasers of the household.

Last week was the CommonGround National Conference in Washington DC. I can't even tell you how much I was looking forward to going to this. A lot of the work in CommonGround is through social media. There is a fantastic Facebook page for the national group and our Minnesota group. (Just search CommonGround and Common Ground Minnesota to find both pages!) So to have the chance to meet some of these women was so exciting! Something new is always good, but there is something to be said for spending time with women whom you really connect with on a different level. Event though many have different farming practices, we all get how hard it is to farm. To live with constant risk, being the other half to a farmer or even raising kids with a farmer. It's unique and sometimes it's so refreshing to be with other ladies who get it in a way others sometimes can't. The whole event just did not disappoint.

Missy starting off the day
The day of sessions covered many areas including a recap of 2015 and where we are headed in 2016, and arming the group with some great tips and information to take with us as we go back to our homes to continue advocating. There were lots of laughs and inspirational moments and I think we all "refilled our bucket." I think many left with some fantastic new connections, a renewed fire for advocacy and some great tips, ideas and resources.

A quick sight seeing walk. 4 of the wonderful Minnesota CG ladies!

Had to make a trip to see some monuments at night. The snow actually made them more beautiful.
It was a phenomenal event. It was wonderful to meet so many of the women I see online doing such amazing things. We NEED agriculture to tell our story. Farmers are feeding the world and doing an amazing job of it. And consumers need - and want - to know that. There is no reason for anyone to fear our food. And farmers, and advocates for farming, need to get out there and tell about our successes. We are producing more with less inputs and resources and THAT is a great story to be told.

Our main message. Everyone has a right to ask the questions - just make sure your sources are credible and fact based!
Farmers have great stories to tell about how far we've come

The full Minnesota group of gals. These ladies have some great stories to tell!
I think everyone was really looking forward to the conference being held in Washington DC. Our meetings were at the Smithsonian Museum of American History...which was really cool. Unfortunately, mother nature had different plans for our time there and I felt bad there was so much hard work that went into planning the event and it got a little buggered up by some snow. Ok...a lot of snow. Luckily, most were able to flee DC before the storm hit. There were a few who got stranded, but hopefully they made the best of it!

Breakfast at the Smithsonian. Don't get that chance every day!

I can't say thank you enough to the NCGA, USB, Minnesota Corn and Minnesota Soy for supporting this program and allowing us time to network and come together as a group and recharge. And the national CommonGround staff (Missy, Rachel and Nicole-your guys rock!) did a great job handling all the last minute and hectic details and helping us all through the conference and getting out of DC safely before the storm hit!

There is no one better to speak up for farmers than farmers themselves. We need to continue to tell the stories and be heard, whether it be in social media or in person. Join your state corn and soy growers groups. Be involved and support your county corn and soy growers. Our state and national groups are doing their part to help us out....we need to follow through on the opportunities they are providing and take it to the next level. There are so many ways to help support farmers. If you support or involved agriculture, what are YOU doing to help?

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