Friday, March 22, 2013

No More Food Fights! Can Farmers & Foodies Get Along?

It may be coincidence that both National Ag Day and National Nutrition Month occur both over the month of March but its not a coincidence that the issues of food and farming are so intertwined. The book "No More Food Fights!' is all about the conversation over food and farming, which is very polarized these days. Consumers don't feel farmers are paying attention to their needs or are suspicious of farming practices they are not familiar with. Farmers feel consumers don't understand agriculture and succumb too easily to media stories that don't paint an accurate picture.. Dietitians want to have science-based answers for consumers on how their food is produced. People in general are connecting back to the land now more than ever, or are connecting for the first time if their family lineage was always urban dwelling.

"No More Food Fights!" was published  by Michele Payn-Knoper, CSP and Principal of Cause Matters. After I read the book, I knew I wanted to share it with my dietetic peers (the RD part of who I am) who could benefit from the variety of perspectives offered in this book.  I did an interview with Michele and wrote a guest blog for Stone Soup of Food and Nutrition Magazine

Here is the link to my interview with Michele and book review at Food and Nutrition Magazine: 

No More Food Fights! covers

I think for me as a farmer, one of my favorite quotes from the book is by Chef Renee Kelly, 
"People are fascinated by farms but far removed with where their food comes from. They can't identify with farmers because food is so readily available that customers just assume it's easy to farm." Can I get an Amen from the farm side? I find this to be so true both in person and in social media. A lot of folks talking about farming as "experts" without ever having driven a tractor, milked a cow, weaned a pig, or spread manure (at least not literally anyways). 

We all like to think we are experts with very little else to go on. When I was a grad student, I had college freshmen consider themselves "experts" after taking Nutrition 101. I've heard dietary cooks call themselves dietitians because they have been preparing food for so long. Likewise, I've been told "I have a large garden so I am familiar with farming." The one that always makes me laugh is "I know all about farming because as a kid, I spent summers on my Grandparents farm." REALLY? And four decades later, that makes them an expert on how to successfully sustain a family farm in today's environment?

The quote from To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind - "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

Or this somewhat well-known and similar saying : Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his boots, Don't criticize another person's work until you've tried to do it yourself; don't judge another person's life until you've been forced to live it. (Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, 1996) I would add, "don't assume farming is easy because food is abundant."

So for me, this book echoes my heart both as an RD and as a farmer. I hope you will pick it up and read it, and apply it throughout your conversations about food and farming.


  1. Jennie, I received information about this book from the author last month and immediately ordered it. Although, I haven't had a chance to read it yet, I already know I will enjoy it from what I've read about it and now from what you have written. Neva Cochran

  2. Hi Neva, I'm glad you have it. It really is an interesting read and I appreciate Michele's efforts to be inclusive rather than exclusive. Its definitely some food for thought on how to better balance the food conversation! Jennie