By Adrian Schunk
ORANGE TOWNSHIP, IONIA COUNTY — Amanda Teachworth and Julie Stephenson, both members of Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) state Promotion and Education Committee, recently attended a national-level consumer engagement conference. More than 40 Farm Bureau members from across the nation attended American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Target: Food Consumer Engagement Training, May 1-2 in Washington, D.C.
Aimed at equipping Farm Bureau members with skills for impacting consumers, the conference offered attendees training specific to consumer engagement and in-person agricultural literacy training.
Teachworth said the conference helped her understand the importance of challenging conversations and appreciating consumers’ perspective.
“We’re in the same boat as they are, really,” Teachworth said. “Agriculturalists care about our families—about our children—it’s just the knowledge gap that separates us.”
One concept for helping close that gap was presented as the “Pillars of Literacy.”
“When you talk to a room full of people, everyone is going to have their own background and focal point,” Teachworth said. “You have to learn how to connect with each of them differently, instead of assuming what they want to hear.”
The concept was illustrated through a consumer-panel discussion revealing their vastly different food interests and everyday purchasing choices, giving valuable insights into consumer purchasing motives.
Other topics included science and technology, current media trends and effective volunteer recruitment.
“With a lot of media outlets giving false information, we have to be the boots on the ground letting people know where their food comes from,” Teachworth said. “The more voices we have helping with that, the more effective Michigan Farm Bureau and Michigan agriculture will be.”
PS: If bridging the knowledge gap between farmers and consumers sounds like your cup of tea, consider getting involved in your county Farm Bureau’s Promotion and Education program!
Adrian Schunk is studying communications at Michigan State University, and interning with MFB’s Center for Education and Leadership Development.