City dwellers in South Dakota will have the chance to get to know the people who farm the rural land surrounding them a little better.
The South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council is letting the farmers talk in a new advertising campaign aimed at dispelling misconceptions about farming and food safety. Starting in January, television, print and radio ads will spread the message of the Hungry for Truth campaign to the most urban South Dakotans in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
The research council crafted its message over the past couple years, meeting with focus groups in Sioux Falls and Rapid City and hiring a professional marking company. A phone survey conducted last spring by a professional research company reached 600 people across South Dakota.
It showed that food safety was the top concern when South Dakotans thought about farming — particularly what pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones and modified genes do to the food on their plates.
Two-thirds of those surveyed said companies should be required to label GMO foods. Such respondents tended to be women, seniors and those living on the western side of the state.
It's time to speak up and correct some of the misconceptions that people have, said Jeremy Freking, executive director of South Dakota Soybean.
While the survey showed that people don't trust farming technology, they do trust farmers themselves.
Nine out of 10 people in South Dakota personally know someone who farms. Consumers understand that most South Dakota farms are family-run, and they believe farmers are doing the right things when it comes to promoting food quality over making a profit.
Still, there's a growing disconnect between the urban dweller and the people who grow their food. "People tell us they want to know more about farming today. There's no one better to tell them than farmers themselves," Freking said.
A website that launched this month, www.hungryfortruthsd.com, features an interactive roundtable video of farmers talking about what they do. It's meant to mimic a dinner table discussion.
Marc Reiner farms near Tripp and is chairman of the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council. He said the campaign will help consumers feel better about the food they eat. The message is needed today, he said, because of rumors being spread by groups who don't like the way farmers operate. Farmers want people to know how crops are grown and how animals are treated, he said.
"People deserve to know the facts about farming today, and we have nothing to hide," added John Horter, who farms near Andover, and is president of the South Dakota Soybean Association.
This is the first major campaign that the soybean research council has taken on. The council is working with Hy-Vee and Karl's TV and Appliance on special promotions meant to encourage people to join the conversation, and members will be at events next year including Restaurant Week and the Sioux Empire Fair in Sioux Falls and the Summer Concert Series and Taste of South Dakota in Rapid City.
They're aiming to reach 39 million people through the TV ads, 1.5 million through print advertising and another 11 million to 12 million online. For now, the soybean council is the sole entity behind the campaign, but directors said they're open to other commodity groups joining in, as the message isn't specific to soybeans. They plan to run the campaign for more than a year but didn't have an exact target for how much they'd spend.
The campaign is funded with checkoff dollars.--Janelle Atyeo, Tri-State Neighbor