Food is Community & Shared Values

  • Article
  • December 29, 2015

It might surprise you to learn that in today’s environment, most people are three generations removed from the farm. So it’s understandable there is a growing interest in where food comes from. This desire to connect to food may be rooted in people’s relationships and values about health and the environment. That’s what University of Iowa researchers found when they interviewed more than 40 consumers and farmers in Iowa and New York to investigate the reason for the rapid development of local food markets, food coops and restaurants specializing in local foods. They discovered it wasn’t because the food was fresher or tasted better. “It’s about valuing the relationship with the farmers and people who produce the food and believing that how they produce the food aligns with your personal values,” said co-author Ion Vasi, when interviewed about the findings presented at the American Sociology Association annual meeting in August.

I have found when people visit a dairy farm, they are often surprised by the values they share with the farmers. I have visited dozens of farms and personally know hundreds of farmers across the country. They value hard work, integrity and putting family first. Dairy farmers work hard to put milk on your table and support their family. They put a high priority on cow health and comfort because a healthy cow produces more good quality milk. They take pride in providing nutritious foods, important to good health, while being good stewards of our natural resources. They want to build a sustainable business they can proudly hand down to their children and grandchildren. It’s not just their livelihood, it’s their legacy. These are values we understand and can relate to.

For a glimpse into what farmers and urbanites have in common, check out the Acres & Avenues series. It’s amazing what they learn when they spend time getting to know each other on the farm and in the city. For example, in episode 1, entrepreneurs Brian Fiscalini (dairy farmer in California) and Nick Pourfard (guitar maker) discover how each in their own way contributes to a more sustainable environment.

Education can go a long way in clearing up misperceptions and helping people understand and reconnect with how their food is made. Visiting a dairy farm is a great way to make that connection. If you live in an area where temperatures are still mild, you can contact your local dairy council to set up a farm visit (or wait until spring!). But we understand not everyone has that opportunity. That’s why we at National Dairy Council are doing what we can to educate the public about how dairy farm families care for their animals in a safe and sustainable way.

To help connect the farm to your table, we have compiled favorite recipes and stories from dairy farm families across the country in the "The Dairy Good Cookbook: Everyday Comfort Foods From America’s Dairy Farm Families." You can help celebrate dairy farm families by making the recipes your own and sharing them with others.

Follow me here and @JeanRagalieRD.