Turning Your Morning Meal Into a Conversation About Farmers

June 15, 2017 06:37 AM

The story of family farms across the country is often untold, but it’s a story the Kellogg Company finds unique. The maker of Corn Flakes is turning consumers’ morning meal into a conversation, while shining the spotlight on real farmers like Rita Herford, a farmer in Minden City, Mich.

The lush field of soft white wheat she's growing will be processed into Frosted Mini Wheats.

“It's great to know the food I grow for the grocery store is what I’m going to feed my kids,” said Herford.

Growing up on the family farm, coming back and making farming her career after college wasn't always in the plan.

“As I slowly got away from it, I realized that's exactly where I wanted to be,” she said.

It's that passion for farming that's also turned into an eagerness for sharing her story: caring for the land, while producing a safe and abundant food supply. 

“To go to the grocery store and to even have an ounce of fear in your mind, really scares me because I don't think we should make our purchasing decisions out of fear,” she said.

Justin Krick farms outside Frankenmuth, Mich. alongside his father and great uncle. He also wants farmers’ stories heard.  

“Contrary to what some people think, we’re not out here to harm the environment,” said Krick. “This is how we make our living. This is how six generations before me have made their living.”

It’s those stories often left untold to the general public.

“Do you think consumers understand the ingredients that go into their Frosted Flakes?” U.S. Farm Report host Tyne Morgan asked Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer of the Kellogg Company.

“I’m sure they don't, and that’s part of the opportunity to share the story of farmers,” said Holdorf.

Kellogg Company sharing those stories of farmers like Herford and Krick through an effort called “Open for Breakfast.”

“We're sharing stories about water conservation, soil health, about even little things farmers are doing to help sustainability,” said Rick Wion, senior director of consumer engagement and lead for the Kellogg Company’s Open for Breakfast. “We've talked to rice farmers, we've got wheat farmers, corn growers out there.”  

“For Kellogg’s to really step up to the plate and share the story that I personally didn't find as fascinating as they did, and now I’m glad that somebody else does, it's good to know that they're kind of breeching that gap between the end consumer and me, which is where it all starts,” said Krick.

As a consumer-facing brand, Kellogg's knows people are growing more interested in food.

“We see increasingly that people care about where their food comes from, who's growing it, how it's made and why it's good for them and their families,” said Herford. “We have an opportunity as a consumer-facing business to bring the story of farmers through the journey of our foods from seed to table.”

It’s that opportunity Kellogg Company says goes back to their roots in 1906. 

“We are a company with a heart and soul,” said Herford.

“Part of our ability to demonstrate that we're a good company, that we're a company with heart and soul is by showcasing the partnerships we have with farmers all across the country,” said Wion.

Holdorf says being able to connect consumers back to more than just the nutrition label on a box is helping revive interest in agriculture.

“Farmers are nurturing these ingredients six, seven months in the ground that it takes to grow and harvest, and then it takes about two hours for many of these foods to cook in our operations, just like they do at home, right,” said Holdfor. “Being able to tell that story more clearly so that people recognize that a Corn Flake comes from corn, that Rice Krispies is actually a puffed grain of rice.”

Open for Breakfast also has a call for questions on the back of their cereal boxes, sparking even more inquiries from consumers about how their food is produced.

“Which I think represents tremendous power because with so many boxes of cereal that we make, each one we can tell a story on the back of the box,” said Wion.

He knows the responsibility of making sure the information they provide is accurate, which is why Kellogg’s goes the extra mile to ensure their information is correct.

“We've received thousands of questions over the couple of years the program has been running, and  when we don't have an answer to the question, we'll go out and try to find the answer,” said Wion. “I’ve got partners in our supply chain team, and at times they'll need to call a mill or even some of the farmers to get to the bottom of the question.”

From empowering female farmers, to sharing the stories of both conventional and organic farmers across the country, Kellogg's is raising the awareness of an industry generationally removed from the average consumer today.

“I’m afraid of that in five or 10 years, the way we farm is going to be decided by people who have never even stepped foot on a farm, and we're actually going to go backwards in progress,” said Krick.

“Everything we do on our farm has a purpose and a reason—it's just silly to think we'd go do something for the fun of it,” said Herford.

Herford hopes learning why and how farming works, impacts what foods they buy down the road.

“I really encourage consumers to seek out truthful, scientific information when you go to make your purchasing decisions,” she said.

Kellogg’s is changing the perception of agriculture while helping shape the future of agriculture in a positive way.

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