3 Questions for….Charlie Arnot, Center for Food Integrity

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The Farmers Feed US program in Michigan recently surveyed consumers about their shift in attitude toward farmers after visiting the Farmers Feed US site. The program by the Center for Food Integrity aims to connect consumers with farmers and give them positive information about farming and its contributions to society.

Overall, the survey showed a very positive shift in consumer attitudes. Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, says the survey revealed that consumers acknowledged that their perception of agriculture in the state improved following a visit to the site; 93.6 percent either "strongly agree" (61.8 percent) or "somewhat agree" (31.8 percent).

Bovine Veterinarian asks Arnot about the significance of this survey and reaching consumers with a positive message about farming.

Bovine Veterinarian: Were you pleased with the overall survey results that showed a more positive perception of farming after visiting the Farmers Feed US site? Did that indicate the right type of information consumers were seeking was available on the site?

Charlie Arnot: We continue to be very pleased with the overall consumer response to Farmers Feed US in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri. The latest survey results clearly reflect that the opportunity to connect with the men and women who produce our food is meaningful to consumers. We learned during our consumer research the last three years that consumers are less interested in information about how we produce food and more interested in information about the values of those involved in food production. Those findings helped shape the strategy of Farmers Feed US. We spend less time trying to educate and more time simply connecting based on the values that are shared by consumers and farmers. Consumers trust farmers, we simply need to introduce them to today’s farmers who produce food on a different scale using modern technology.

BV: The survey indicated that 95% felt farmers featured on the site were approachable and knowledgeable. Do you think that all producers – as well as food animal veterinarians – should take every opportunity to reach out to consumers?

CA: Absolutely!  Like every other sector of society agriculture has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. We use technology and systems today that our grandparents never dreamed of. What hasn’t changed is the commitment of farmers to do what’s right. We need to help consumers understand that even though the size and scale of agriculture has changed, the values of the people involved have not. We’re still committed to producing safe, nutritious and affordable food and just like every other business we use technology to make that happen.

BV: What are the upcoming plans for expanding the Farmers Feed US program to other states?

CA: Farmers Feed US is currently operating in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri. We will launch in late spring or early summer in Wisconsin and there are at least four additional states that are interested in launching in 2010. We want to make the program available to all interested states. Any state organizations interested in bringing Farmers Feed US to their state can contact me at charlie.arnot@foodintegrity.org. All it takes is a lead organization willing to bring together a coalition of the willing, committed to connecting today’s farmers with consumers to build trust in contemporary food production.



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