The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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December 30, 2013

Defined by critics, big ag restarts conversation

(Continued)

“We were just absent in that dialogue, and therefore a lot of the urban legends just got amplified without any kind of logical balance or rebuttal,” Fraley says of the criticism.

At a recent conference of meat producers, David Wescott, director of digital strategy at APCO Worldwide, told ranchers they needed to do a better job connecting with — and listening to — mothers, who often communicate on social media about food and make many of the household purchasing decisions.

“It’s a heck of a lot more convincing when a mom says something than when a brand does,” says Wescott, who says he has worked with several major farm and agriculture companies to help them reach out to consumers, especially moms.

Other farm groups, like Illinois Farm Families, are inviting moms to tour the fields. Tim Maiers of the Illinois Pork Producers Association says the group has found that consumers generally trust farmers, but they have a lot of questions about farming methods.

One of the moms, Amy Hansmann, says that though she remains concerned about the amount of processed foods and chemicals in the food supply, her experiences touring conventional farms with Illinois Farm Families changed her thinking. She was particularly amazed by the big farmers’ use of technology and attempts to be sustainable.

Hansmann says that before the tour, her perception from the media was that these big farmers were “evil capitalists” who focused only on their businesses and not on the care of the land or animals.

“What I found couldn’t be further from the truth,” she says.

Chris Chinn, a blogger and a fifth generation farmer and mom from Clarence, Mo., is trying to reach out to others like Hansmann, too. Chinn, 38, carves 20 minutes or more out of her schedule every day to get on Twitter, comment on online articles and update her blog. Her internet service can be spotty in rural Clarence, but she sometimes types out entire blog posts on her smartphone and tries to respond to every Tweet that is directed to her — some of them nasty.

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