Food Dialogues Initiates Conversation Between Farmers, Consumers

Farmers may grow or raise food but may never get the opportunity to talk about it. Food Dialogues allows them to do just that.

The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (MSR&PC), Nebraska Soybean Board and U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance partnered to host the Minneapolis event that brought farmers and urban-based consumers together to have a conversation about food.

Approximately 150 attendees joined as eight panelists lead the conversation at the Mill City Museum. Each panelist came from a different background in agriculture.

The topics discussed included food safety, sustainability, supply constraints and fear of food.

“The power of choice is evident in a retail market,” said Jen Haugen, a registered dietitian who previously worked for Hy-Vee. “The misconception is that organic food is safe and conventional is not. All food is safe.”

Minnesota Soybean Growers Association Director Bill Gordon, who grows corn and soybeans near Worthington, Minn., agreed.

“I give my family the same food that I raise and the same food that you, as consumers, eat.”

Sustainability brought a lot of discussion from the panelists, as each had their own definition.

“To me, sustainability is waking up every morning, wanting to do a better job than my father and grandfather had done before me,” Gordon said. “It is wanting to do better.”

Rochelle Krusemark, who grows corn and soybeans and raises pork and beef near Trimont, Minn., pointed to technology.

“Sustainability is using things like precision agriculture to make better decisions.”

The night ended questions from the audience, which initiated discussion on feasibility of food and buzz words in agriculture.

“Would people want more organic food in schools if it was feasible?” asked Paul Booth, a current chef who has worked in public schools.

Bertrand Weber, Director of Minneapolis Public Schools Culinary & Nutrition Services, responded by saying that the socio-economic status within public schools varies greatly. The price difference may be a factor as some cannot afford the price gap between conventional and organic food.

Haugen replied by saying that the words people use to describe food has created a fear.

“Buzz words like organic and GMO should exist to promote a market or sector of agriculture, not fear in food.”

Much of the conversation occurring at the Mill City Museum spilled over to social media. Read what others were saying about the event.

The panelists included: Weber; Gordon; Krusemark; Haugen; Greg Reynolds, organic vegetable farmer from Delano, Minn.; Jorge Guzman, Minnesota chef for Surly Brewing; Steve Peterson, former director of sustainable sourcing with General Mills and a corn, soybean, alfalfa and Black Angus farmer from Paynesville, Minn.; and Steve Polski, senior director of sustainability for Cargill.

About The Food Dialogues ®

The Food Dialogues signature events are designed to bring together farmers, ranchers, industry experts, scientists, media and consumers for dynamic panel discussions on some of today’s most pressing topics related to food and food production. Since its launch in 2011, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance has hosted 25 panels across the country.