Curious about how farmers produce the food you feed your family? Several organizations exist in Nebraska to bridge the communication gap between consumers and producers, and they want to answer all your questions about agriculture.
The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, or A-FAN, is a non-profit organization whose goal is to empower farmers and ranchers to share information about food production and to help every Nebraskan understand the connection between farms and their quality of life. The organization can be found online at www.becomeafan.org.
“We’re trying to help consumers connect with farmers and ranchers to see what they do and how they do it, and realize we all have the same shared values,” says Willow Holoubek, executive director of A-FAN. “We want to raise awareness and support consumer trust in Nebraska agriculture.”
A-FAN is a collaborative effort formed by representatives from Nebraska Beef Council, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Soybean Board, Nebraska Soybean Association, and Midwest Dairy Association.
“We truly encompass all aspects of agriculture,” Holoubek says. “You can go to our website and ask any question about agriculture, and we can link you with our members who can answer your questions.”
To get people excited about agriculture, A-FAN sponsors fun events such as their Farm Road Rally, which takes interested consumers, chefs, grocery store managers and dietitians on bus tours of area farms. A-FAN also co-sponsors an event at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln called the Husker Food Connection.
“It’s a pretty cool event. Agriculture students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln host a day of educational events to share facts about agriculture with their fellow students and professors,” Holoubek says. “They give away prizes and T-shirts and serve 1,000 free meals.”
A-FAN also has partnered on grocery giveaways, where consumers can go to the organization’s interactive website, watch a video about farming and food production, and apply to win a grocery gift card. Three $1,000 grocery gift cards have been awarded so far.
“I feel it’s my purpose in life to help tell agriculture’s story,” Holoubek says. “Agriculture is our legacy as it’s the largest industry in Nebraska today and essential for the state’s future.”
Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is another program that helps develop the understanding that agriculture is our source of food, clothing and other essentials. The Nebraska AITC program provides kindergarten through 12th grade teachers with resources and training on ways to incorporate agriculture into their existing curriculums. Students learn that agriculture includes the production, processing, distribution and marketing of food and products we use every day, and thereby become more informed consumers.
Another organization, CommonGround, encourages conversation among women – both on farms and in cities – about where food comes from. More than 70 farm women in 16 states volunteer as resources for CommonGround to help women sort through the myths surrounding food. In Nebraska, there are 12 women volunteers, with even more farm women blogging at www.CommonGroundNebraska.com to share about life on the farm, how food is grown and to answer questions.
“CommonGround gives agriculture a specific audience to reach – an audience who are the main food buyers in the home – women,” says Kelsey Pope, director of Advocacy & Outreach for the Nebraska Corn Board and co-coordinator of the CommonGround Nebraska program. “Consumer women across our state make food choices every day, and CommonGround gives farm women the tools and opportunities to reach these consumers to share about food and farming. It provides environments for them to answer consumers’ questions at consumer-oriented events.”