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Indiana Farm Bureau



December 9, 2011


For more information: Andy Dietrick, 317-692-7818, adietrick@infarmbureau.org 

Kathleen Dutro, 317-692-7824, kdutro@infarmbureau.org 


Farmers need to connect to consumers, IFB president says




Indiana farmers need to make connections to the audiences who matter to agriculture, according to Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock.

In his annual address to Farm Bureau members at the IFB convention in Indianapolis Dec. 9, Villwock noted that the theme of this year’s convention is "Connect."

"It’s all about connections," Villwock said.

"In order to connect to our consumers and the movers and shakers of this state and nation, we must share our story," he said.

"We in agriculture, we don’t have to look far or listen too hard to see and hear the many misconceptions about modern farming," Villwock told members. "For way too many years, we were pretty quiet in ag…We thought that everyone understood if we didn’t take care of our animals, they wouldn’t take care of us. We figured that everyone knew that we live, we work, we drink the water from our farms. Because we want to hand those farms down to the next generation – we care more about the soil, water and air than anybody else.

"Unfortunately, we were wrong!"

Part of the reason for this disconnect, Villwock said, is that it’s difficult for non-farmers to understand modern agriculture with its satellite-driven auto-steer tractors, precision sprayers and large machinery. Part is from misinformation from individuals and groups with agendas – radical vegan and animal rights organizations who want to "convert everyone to their cause."

But another reason is that farmers need to start talking and telling their side of the story.

"We have raised just about everything but our voices, and we can no longer afford to be silent," he said. "It is no longer an option to sit on the sideline waiting for somebody in Washington or Indianapolis to tell the story. Each of us has a great story to tell, and who better to tell it than the family farmers of Indiana."

Another connection that Villwock said farmers need to make is to the hungry people of the planet.

"Some of these hungry mouths are a long way off in some distant country. Unfortunately, they are out of sight, then they are out of mind," Villwock said, noting a recent poll that suggested that almost 50 percent of the American population believes it is not the American farmer’s responsibility to feed the world.

"Have we become so disconnected by our affluence that we think it’s all right to let someone, some child in a foreign country – or worse yet, here at home – go to bed hungry every night?" he said, adding that more than 60,000 children in Indiana go to bed hungry each night.

Farm Bureau launched a program a few years back called Hoppers for the Hungry, where farmers are asked to donate the proceeds from a combine hopper or a partial hopper to their local food bank. In some counties it has been a success, Villwock said, noting that he has participated every year since it began started. Delaware County Farm Bureau has begun a similar program called Farmers Helping Neighbors.

"I urge you to make a personal connection, to reach out in any way that you can," Villwock added.

The Farm Bureau convention continues through Dec. 10.