Guest Post By Dave McEachren (also known as @DeereDave on Twitter)
On a recent trip to the mid-western United States, I had the joy of a Chicago O’Hare-connecting flight. Is that sarcasm, you ask? Not at all. Can you imagine over 180,000 passengers travelling through that one airport everyday…yes, everyday! During my time in the airport I would never have imagined that there were that many travellers walking through on a daily basis. I noticed that they weren’t just walking through the airport, though. Many of these people were stopping to eat. Just take a moment to contemplate the amount of food that 180,000 people can eat. No, not everyone is going to sit down for a meal at the airport, but as the hours those travellers spend waiting for their flights add up, it’s not long before some type of food draws them in.
As I sat there enjoying my surprisingly delicious breakfast pizza, which included eggs, bacon and tomatoes, I observed the many cultures and walks of life buzzing by the Wolfgang Puck Café. My thoughts were also on the food choices of my fellow patrons who were dining nearby. It was at this moment that I had an epiphany: we often say, “If you ate today, thank a farmer” But who is the customer in this relationship? In the polite society which we live, both sides of a transaction often give thanks; but I ask you when was the last time you, as a farmer, thanked someone for eating?
“Pardon me?” you say, “You want us to thank consumers for eating?” Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
As I sat watching people around me consuming eggs, vegetables, dairy products, meat, breads and other grain products, and drinking all kinds of beverages I wondered how weird it would be to step up and thank them for making good food choices and for supporting farmers. So did I step up and seize the moment? No. I had to give my new idea some further thought.
The reason for my travel through Chicago and on to Des Moines, was the DuPont/ASA Young Leader Program where a group of farmers representing the soybean-growing states, plus a token Canadian (me) spent time learning and discussing such topics as biotechnology and communications training, among others. During our last session on Social Media and Outreach, we were joined by Faces of Farming representative, Katie Pratt. Listening to some of Katie’s experiences drew me right back to the Wolfgang Puck Café in O’Hare. I couldn’t hold back. I shared my O’Hare epiphany with the group of over forty fellow farmers.
The group’s initial reaction was silence, and then you could hear their minds working. Maybe this could work? As the person with the epiphany, had to try it out, so from the Des Moines airport I made a point of stepping up and thanking a young couple for supporting farmers by consuming the various food products on their plate. As it turned out, it was a great way to start a conversation. The young couple was on their way home to Alaska and we (a group of odd-accented farmers hailing from Louisiana to Minnesota) had a great discussion about food production and where their food comes from. It was my hope, that by stepping up and showing the others just how easy it was to start the conversation and give thanks to our consumers, that they too would do the same.
As farmers, we need to step up and start the conversation every chance we get. Starting that conversation with a “thank you” should most often lead it in a positive direction. My challenge to you is this — if you see someone eating today, tell them you’re a farmer and thank them!
Also by Dave McEachren: The evolution of the family farm from the seat of a ’45 FarmAll