The average consumer of agricultural products today is generations removed from farming and a rural lifestyle, a disconnect that presents many of the challenges production agriculture faces today. The ninth University of Arkansas Moms on the Farm Day gave urban mothers a chance to experience where their food comes from and openly communicate with the people who produce it.
“There are lots of other people out there talking about how food is produced and several of them have negative views about the way we operate. As agriculturalists, we need to be telling our own story,” said Janeal Yancy, Moms on the Farm coordinator. “It's hard for farmers to do that all on their own, so I am trying to provide an outlet for farmers in northwest Arkansas to tell their story.”
With increasing animosity toward buzzwords making agriculture sound more like a factory and less like a family, Moms on the Farm day aims to introduce consumers not only to their food, but to their farmer as well.
“I think consumers just need a chance to put real faces and stories on their thoughts about farming,” Yancy said. “If they know a farmer in northwest Arkansas, then I think they will be more likely to trust farmers from all over.”
The Moms on the Farm day happens twice yearly, once in Bentonville and once in Fayetteville. Typically a group of 30 or more women of all ages attend the experience and gain access to working beef, dairy and occasionally poultry operations depending on biosecurity measures. The tours also include recipe demonstrations by the Arkansas Cattlewomen and a question-and-answer session with Extension or university experts.
The Fayetteville tour this year featured the Hart dairy, a 100-cow operation in Farmington as the first stop. Participants were invited into the milking parlor to watch a live milking demonstration, meet the head cow, feel the suction of a milker and learn more about what happens between the farm and the store.
Dairy owner John Hart answered questions ranging from concerns whether the cows or bulls have horns to how young the calves are weaned from their mothers. Hart said he was willing to answer as many questions as possible about his livelihood because he knows the importance of an educated consumer.
“This program is important to us because the moms can come and see what a dairy is really like,” Hart said. “I like for people who have never had the opportunity to be a part of agriculture to be able to understand what we do.”
The next stop on the tour was a diversified beef operation in Weddington. Owned by Bob Spears, the operation runs around 1,600 head of feeder cattle and 160 cow-calf pairs on 700 acres.
The Spears operation uses a unique blend of feeding strategies, so participants were able to learn about and see a wide range of conventional agriculture practices. Spears explained his total mixed ration with peanut shells, how they cut and store silage, and grazing cattle on wheat pasture.
The tour finished with demonstrations of two unique recipes using some of the agricultural products shown throughout the tour. The participants were then invited to ask open questions of University of Arkansas experts in relevant fields like meat science, poultry science and agricultural law.
The participants reflected on the day as an eye-opening experience that will change the way they consider their purchase decisions in the grocery store.
Many remarked that they were surprised to see real farmers and ranchers working in the field in light of what they had heard about agriculture.
Each participant left with a fresh perspective on the genuine importance of agriculture today.
“I did not know before today that the dairy can not put antibiotics in milk regardless of what a label in the grocery store says,” said participant Toni Carter. “I was totally shocked by what we were able to learn at the farms today.” £