More than 200 women farmers across the country are advancing conversations about food and farming between consumers and farmers as part of the CommonGround program.
Many of these women farmers will gather to celebrate the program's success and discuss future plans during the 7th annual CommonGround National Conference today through Aug. 2.
"CommonGround provides a platform for women farmers to share their personal experiences, as well as science and research, to help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation surrounding food and farming," said Cathryn Wojcicki, communications manager for the National Corn Growers Association.
"Over the last seven years, our farmer volunteers have made millions of positive impressions about farming through media interviews, local events and social media efforts," Wojcicki said.
"We're gathering this week to celebrate our achievements and talk about how we can reach even more people."
CommonGround was developed in 2010 by farmers through two national checkoffs, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and the United Soybean Board (USB) as a way to address consumer's growing demand to know where food comes from and what's in it. Since 2010, the CommonGround program has grown from 14 farmer volunteers in five states to more than 200 volunteers in 19 states.
Joan Ruskamp, a cattle feeder from Dodge, Nebraska, became a CommonGround volunteer in 2011 as a way to have transparent and real conversations with other moms about food and farming.
"CommonGround has given me the skills and confidence to engage in conversations with consumers about how their food is grown, specifically related to the work that my husband and I do on our farm," Ruskamp said.
Ruskamp didn't expect the advocacy program to provide her with leadership skills that would strengthen her business and personal relationships. She says she's been able to apply the leadership skills learned through CommonGround to her cattle operation as well as her family.
"When we started CommonGround seven years ago we had no idea the program would contribute to the growth of such amazing agricultural leaders," says Missy Morgan, associate director of CommonGround.
"CommonGround's transparent style has allowed for a unique two-way conversation among women who are able to connect based on shared values. This builds trust and creates an environment for more impactful conversations about how food is raised between women farmers and women raising their families in urban areas," Morgan said.
"Our women farmers have earned people's trust and respect. They really have compassion for moms, because for the most part our farmers are also mothers," Morgan said. "They know how much moms care about giving their children the best, safest foods, because they care about that too."
CommonGround meets annually to provide farmer volunteers with informing insights regarding food and agriculture. During the CommonGround National Conference, farmer advocates will have the opportunity to hear new consumer research, and also network with women farmers from other states.
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