Only 2% of America’s population work in the agricultural industry according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers and ranchers are picking up the pace to strengthen relationships with the other 98% of the population.
Consumer preferences are changing according to Matt Hargreaves, the vice president of communications and marketing for the Utah Farm Bureau. He said people want to know where their food is coming from and the story behind it. Most people are at least three to four generations from the farm, so that has created a relationship gap that farmers are trying to close.
“We’ve done a number of things, even just looking at how we talk to our farmers and rancher members about the need to get out there and share the story about agriculture,” Hargreaves said. “What we call the miracle of agriculture, which is how roughly 1-2% of our country’s population can produce the food for all of us and more. So we’ve done a lot of those things to try and make that connection to them instead of having people think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.”
Hargreaves said for years farmers haven’t worried about relationships with the public, because most of the time, the two don’t work directly together. Farmers have a lot of other things to worry about.
“When there’s not rain coming down, it’s more than just a concern about how dry my lawn is getting,” Hargreaves said. “It’s, do I have enough water for this crop? How are my animals doing with the heat? It’s cold outside, coming up on winter, how’s it going to be to bring new calves and lambs into the world.”
Now that consumer relationships are more important, the agriculture industry is taking steps to improve.
“They’re fighting more and more now and if they don’t tell their story, someone else is going to tell it for them,” Hargreaves said. “They’re trying to be more proactive at building relationships with people, so they can see where it come from. Because really that’s who we are, we’re just like everybody else, everybody has a different job to do and share some of the same concerns. They have concerns about mortgages, they have concerns about the schooling that going on with their kids, what’s going on with the community.”
Hargreaves said farmers are taking a step in the right direction, but it’s more than just commercials and marketing campaigns. He said it’s about everybody working together to solve problems.