Consumers are asking more questions now than ever before about their food. The interest in who is producing it and how it is produced is at an all-time high.
To prepare agriculturists on how to respond, engage in meaningful conversations and help build consumer trust in today’s food system, the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) hosted a communications workshop June 29 in Mankato, Minn.
CFI hosts numerous workshops, specializing on different topics from engaging with consumers to social media training. The program revolves around values-based messaging, which is key to building trust. The CFI training allows all involved in the food system to gain skills on how to communicate with the movable middle.
“Be committed to having a conversation, not just educating, defending or correcting misinformation,” said Donna Moenning, a trainer for CFI. “Consumers also need to recognize your ethical right to be involved in farming or food production.”
Learning how to engage was a key portion to the workshop. Using the three simple steps to engaging — listen, ask, share — attendees participated in consumer role playing. Topics were given to each group and asked to listen for the consumer concern, ask more questions and share a values-based response. The topics focused on consumer’s concerns for food safety, GMOs, antibiotic use in livestock and water quality.
The workshop also focused on words to use and words to lose.
“It is common to call ourselves the agriculture industry,” said Theresa Twohey, Director of Communications at Minnesota Pork. “Instead of an industry, we are a community. We have also found that consumers prefer the term ‘farm’ over ‘operation’ and perceive ‘farmer’ as a more positive term than ‘producer.’”
According to CFI, the public senses a change in the way food is produced but doesn’t understand why. The lack of understanding creates an opportunity for activists and detractors but more importantly, it creates an opportunity for farmers to tell their story.
“To be an effective advocate for agriculture and communicate with values, it is important to develop messages that are personal,” Moenning said. “If anyone can say your response, it isn’t personal enough. Use your personal message to help consumers understand that the food system may be better aligned with their values than they previous thought.”
The Center for Food Integrity
CFI is a non-profit organization that is leading the public discussion on trust – bringing together stakeholders at every level of the food value chain to reach consumers in meaningful ways with a unified voice and address the issues consumers care about most. CFI supports informed choice and respects the diversity in today’s food system. To learn more about CFI, visit http://www.foodintegrity.org/.