On Tuesday, I spent a couple hours lurking around the edges of a lively discussion on Twitter. The event was the weekly #AgChat exchange, this time with a group of “Mommy Bloggers” as guests. For the most part, exchanges were polite. As always with such a forum, there were a couple rabble rousers about. Mostly, it was a sincere and informed exchange. This is especially true if you consider the constraints of 140-character messaging.
Here is some of what the moms and other participants wanted to learn about their food (slightly edited but in Twitter speak):
- Would like to know about how chickens & cattle are raised & slaughtered for animal welfare & food safety reasons.
- Food production—I would love for them to show a map on (food) label—how it got to shelf.
- I wish I knew more abt crop subsidies. They seem complicated.
- I’d like 2 know what politicians R in pocket of which #bigAG corps.
- What about antibiotics in meat supply? I’d like to understand, especially w/recent E Coli outbreaks in Europe.
- I wish we were hearing more about bioengineering.
- I wish food stories about science/studies were told w/full context & not just meant to confuse/scare.
- How do ag folks feel about the rise in the number of farmers’ markets?
Beyond all that there was discussion of hormones, food safety, prices and more. You can see archives of the discussion here.
What Tuesday night’s forum reinforced for me was that the divide between those who produce food (some 1.5 percent of the population) and the rest of us remains vast. The AgChat group is working to remedy that by training farmers and ranchers to use social media more effectively to tell their stories. (The next training session is scheduled for August 22 – 23 in Nashville.) It’s an interesting concept.
I am not a farmer. (The vegetables and herbs in my backyard do not count.) I am, however, on the nonprofit AgChat Foundation board. As biased as that might make me, I think efforts like that on Tuesday night and the upcoming training conference are important steps—albeit small—to close the information gap between food production and food consumption.