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Top Line

00:00AM Oct 10, 2008

What's Your Story?

The American consumer is convinced that food the way we have it needs to be reworked, says Kevin Murphy, founder of Food Chain Communications. This is a result of the way farmers have positioned themselves as the caretakers of our nation's food system. Consumers want to know who produces their food, how it's produced and the story behind it.

It's also why the events of the past two months can have such an impact and create unwanted headaches for farmers.

Last month, the animal- rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) released a video showing Iowa hog farm workers beating downed animals and shoving metal rods inside sows. The video, broadcast widely on cable and network news outlets and available on YouTube, is graphic and disgusting. How many people watching that video do you suppose have ever been on a hog farm? Or even met a hog farmer?

In addition, melamine, originally isolated to Chinese infant formula, has now popped up in Cadbury chocolates. These products were recently pulled from grocery-store shelves in other countries, resulting in untold losses for the company.

Now think about the long-term results that will be felt by Chinese dairy producers.

Close to home. While you may not be a pork producer, and you're al-most certainly not a Chinese dairy producer, the lessons from these events are important, Murphy says. If you're not telling your story, somebody else is, and it most likely will not be a story you like or one that makes you look good.

"Food is the most reported-on item in the news—even in the midst of war. It has become such a part of entertainment that people constantly look at food for newsworthiness,” he says.

An entire cable network is dedicated to it. Food has become a pastime, and people are passionate about it.

The local story. So why is the local food movement such a big deal? Producers have a story to tell and people can see the person telling it. Farmers like Leroy Shatto ("Brand New Man” ) have figured this out and are doing very well.

Even if you don't process milk or any other product on your farm like Shatto, you still have the opportunity and ability to reach out to your community and show them how you produce their food.

Top Producer, October 2008