Joan Ruskamp and her husband raised five children on their more than 100-year-old family farm that feeds up to 4,000 head of cattle.
Nebraskans eat their farm’s beef, but until now she never met the consumers to answer their food questions.
“I didn’t grow up on a farm, so I didn’t have an understanding of what happens on a farm,” says Ruskamp, a volunteer for CommonGround Nebraska. “You can’t understand what’s going on by driving by.”
CommonGround Nebraska is part of a national movement of farm women who share information about farming. CommonGround satisfies the consumer connection Ruskamp craves, and likewise the farmer connection that a growing number of consumers seek.
An array of groups at the heart of Nebraska agriculture work hard to establish a dialogue about modern-day agriculture, and they willingly invite consumers to reach out and ask questions.
The farm women volunteers of CommonGround Nebraska listen to and answer consumer questions as part of a nationwide initiative to connect consumers and farmers.
Volunteer farm women make themselves accessible at grocery stores and home shows. They present on television and radio programs. They write for newspapers, respond on Facebook and post blogs on the Common Ground Nebraska website, CommonGroundNebraska.com.
“We have children; we want to care for our children and grandchildren just like other moms out there,” she says. “We have that commonality that we want to make the world a better place for our children, too. We want to give them the real story from the farmer.”
Answers To Youngsters’ Questions
Agriculture surrounds Nebraskans, so teaching youth about the industry seems only natural.
A small but mighty staff teaches agriculture to thousands of youth annually and plants the seeds to multiply that agricultural knowledge. Karmazin annually presents a three-hour course to about 850 seniors at 10 colleges across Nebraska. More than 300 Nebraska classrooms participate in a pen pal program with farmers. And the use of technology, including
Skype, allows 14,000 students per year to witness planting, harvest, crop processing and livestock production.
Experience Raising Nebraska
A new, 25,000-square-foot exhibit helps visitors experience the breadth of Nebraska agriculture. Raising Nebraska opened in 2014 as a permanent, yet evolving, year-round agriculture exhibit at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in Grand Island.
“Something touches every single person who walks in, and it may not be the same ‘aha’ moment for everyone,” says Beth Janning, science and agriculture literacy educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.
Interactive displays help visitors realize and appreciate the impact, advancements and global leadership of Nebraska agriculture. Video kiosks featuring trusted farm sources share facts about animal welfare, manure application and more. A theater in a grain bin showcases short films about innovation and technology that allow farms to grow more with less. Visitors can sit in an actual combine cab to “experience” corn harvest. And an interactive dinner table shows how the state’s farmers put food on Nebraskans’ plates.
“Even though Nebraska is an agriculture state, we have a generation that is fairly removed from Nebraska agriculture,” Janning says. “We really want the public, adults and youth to realize that agriculture is a part of their daily lives.”