Social sustenance at the table

The Social Feed | Nelson the Seagull

Culturally speaking, food is not merely a means of sustenance; it still is a social medium. After all, we meet at the local restaurant to eat and talk and we gather in the back yard to socialize around the barbecue. Since this food has to come from somewhere, doesn’t it make sense that the production of the food we enjoy continue unfettered and as profitably as possible for the producers?

Let’s look closely at the part of the question posed in the last blog post that deals with farmers and consumers.

Jesse Bussard’s question really has two parts and an interesting premise. If you’re going to ask if a statement is helpful when “trying to forge relationships with our customers,” it begs the premise that consumers want a relationship with farmers and ranchers. I guess the first question to ask then is: “do they?” Do consumers really clamor for a relationship with the producers of their food?

Because of my journalistic background and personal interest in agriculture I am admittedly a bit more sensitive to the issues and concerns of farmers, but, as a consumer, I’m really not concerned with knowing the farmer who grew the potato that was served with the vegetables and steak I just ordered at my local steakhouse. Moreover, I could likewise care less about the dairy farmer from whose cows the milk came from that is packaged in the gallon jugs in my local dairy case. My only concern as a consumer is one of availability: does my local grocery store have what I want when I want it?

As crass as that sounds, I hold no ill feelings towards the dairy farmer or the other farmers. I have friends in production agriculture. I just know that my relationship with them doesn’t matter when I’m at the grocery store. I’m really only concerned with price, availability and whether it fits my personal tastes.

I believe that a lot of these discussions have been borne out of politics and the notions of a very small portion of our population that somehow thrives on fear. Various groups have successfully barraged consumers with some dangerous notions and false premises. As a result, farmers, ranchers and the various associations they align themselves with, have been forced to play defense in an attempt to stay in business. Additionally, they’ve had to step up their political action efforts within the various state capitols and in Washington DC to avoid being legislated out of business. In many cases, the money from these efforts could have been better spent on targeted marketing efforts aimed at getting consumers to buy more of their product.

While this is not to suggest that people aren’t concerned about where their food comes from and, more importantly, whether it’s safe, we have a long track record in the United States of providing consumers with a huge amount and variety of food that is both safe and nutritious.

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