Nearly every American can sing the famous song "America the Beautiful." However, many overlook the fact that the words refer to the work of America's farmers: "O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain."
On Sept. 29, www.agweb.com gave farmers and ranchers a unique opportunity to connect with their fellow Americans and begin a conversation about how and where food is produced. "A Day in Agriculture," a virtual event hosted by AgWeb, engaged farmers and ranchers from all 50 states to provide firsthand reports from the fields, barns and businesses that raise and deliver food across the U.S. All facets of agriculture participated in the day, sharing videos, photos and articles about conventional and organic livestock and crop production. Social media also played a vital role in the day’s conversation.
Where food comes from. From the nutritional value of the local school lunch menu to the purity of apple juice, food is a hot discussion topic for many Americans. What often gets left out of the discussion, however, is where that food really originates and who exactly is responsible for producing it," explains Greg Vincent, AgWeb editor. "This virtual event connected those faces—and real farms—to the food we eat."
"AgDay" TV host Clinton Griffiths gave an accurate portrayal of the day’s mood in the event’s promotional video when he said, "Many call it farm country; around here, we just call it home."
The event was supported by Farmers Feeding the World, a nonprofit initiative of the Farm Journal Foundation, which is devoted to hunger relief and educating the public about modern agriculture’s role in food security.
Far and wide. More than 60 of the nearly 200 submissions were collected directly from farmers throughout the day. They shared photos of their farms, their families and their lives. Many also submitted videos that they produced themselves, explaining what goes on during a typical day on their farm.
In addition to farmers, others in the industry chimed in, showcasing how each sector touches consumers daily. The American Farm Bureau Federation and several of its state
affiliates participated in the program by providing content and organizing farmers to submit their stories.
Farm Journal Media team members joined in the celebration, submitting videos, photos and stories highlighting the nation’s most productive industry.
Food consumers were given an opportunity to connect with agriculture on a very real level—from
almonds in California, wine in Nevada and a local grocery in New York City to cheese in Wisconsin, eggs in Missouri and grain in the Cornbelt.
The engagement continued beyond the farm gate and spread to the social media sphere. Facebook and Twitter were buzzing with posts about "A Day in Agriculture." More than 170 farmers posted about their day on Twitter. Another 100 industry stakeholders also used the hashtag #dayinag to post about the agribusiness sector.
Interactive Map of Agriculture Across the Country
The social media conversation sparked discussions from all sides of food issues. For example, a food reform advocate in New York City interacted with a farmer on Twitter who helped answer her questions about egg production. "I am learning today!" Leslie Henry posted on her Twitter feed. Illinois farmer Cheryl Day took time out of her afternoon to help Henry learn about labeling and food safety.
"That is what the day was all about," Vincent says, "helping to dispel many of the common myths that people have about food production."
Reach out . "This event speaks magnitudes about two very important things: first, that farmers and ranchers are eager and excited to talk with the end consumer about what they do, and second, that the end consumer is hungry to learn more about how agriculture really works," says Farm Journal Foundation chairman Andy Weber. "The Day in Agriculture event was unique because it allowed producers and consumers to connect in real life and in real time."
AgWeb and Farmers Feeding the World hope the conversation continues as farmers and ranchers keep reaching out to those who consume the food they grow and raise.