The Uninformed Consumer

Many of today’s American consumers have a number of misconceptions about agriculture and agricultural practices. One such consumer happened to be a senior journalism student at the University of Iowa named Cassidy Riley. After taking an internship with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Riley opened up to “The Des Moines Register” in an August 22nd article about how her internship opened her eyes. By working side-by-side with a variation of agricultural producers, Riley was able to confront a number of the worries she had entering the ag sector. Riley is not alone in her confusion when it comes to the agricultural sector. The majority of consumers have had little to no exposure to the ag field beyond their grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Growing up on a small farm then moving in Illinois to a college town in another state, I have been able to see first hand where certain misconceptions can negatively affect agriculturalists. The exposure gap exists not only in urban settings but in rural settings as well. In a small town, citizens who live in the city limits may only know what the media tells them about their farming neighbors. These misconceptions can be clarified if consumers meet with the same local producers that they are more and more frequently demanding.

As Riley said in her interview, most of exposure to ag producers came from the media and from other consumers. This is common for consumers; however, the media tends to only cover the ag news when something negative happens in the sector. By doing this, consumers unfortunately develop many incorrect ideas about their food producers such as infected feeds making livestock sick, highly medicated livestock being sent to meat processors, and farmers polluting water without worry.

Even as agriculture is one of the most important parts of daily life, many modern consumers distrust producers for false reasons. Without ag producers, the world wouldn’t have food to eat, clothes to wear, or gas to travel. There is a lack of education and exposure to the agriculture sector that causes huge communication gaps between producer and consumer. As consumers have begun requesting their products from smaller, more local producers, they should request a new level of information to shrink the number of misconceptions. This knowledge gap ultimately will only create an inaccurately informed consumer and damage the ag market.

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