(Posted Fri. Aug 17th, 2012)

Aug. 17: This week, volunteers from CommonGround Kentucky took their personal stories of America agriculture straight to the market, greeting grocery shoppers at a Louisville Kroger to discuss their questions about food.  Over the two-day event, dozens of interested consumers stopped to discuss how these farm women grow and raise the food in their carts. 


“Having a conversation about food came so easy once ‘common ground’ was established,” said Jennifer Elwell, communications director for the Kentucky Corn Growers Association. “All our volunteers had to do was find something they had in common with the shoppers, and the conversations came about very easily.”


Many of those who stopped expressed their appreciation for the women’s willingness to start a conversation about the topics that mattered to them.  The event, organized by Elwell and Brent Burchett of the Kentucky Soybean Board, brought farmers Becky Thomas, Michelle Armstrong, Tommee Clark, Tonya Murphy and Carly Guinn to the store for two days.


Volunteers found that questions about the same topics popped up repeatedly with the most popular being the use of hormones, food labeling that indicates origin and the drought. Guinn noted that shoppers seemed particularly attentive while she explained how the drought affected corn pollination this year.


In addition to answering questions, the volunteers enjoyed discussing their own farms with interested shoppers. Murphy, a chicken farmer near Owensboro, Ky., brought photos of her chicken houses to share, and Clark invited a number of local teachers to bring their classes to her farm on field trips this year.


On the second day, the farmers had an opportunity to speak with a number of vegetarian shoppers due to the proximity of their table to the meat substitute products.  One young woman tentatively approached the volunteers explaining that she was excited to learn more about farming, but she noted that she was a vegetarian.  Quick to include everyone in the conversation, Elwell interjected saying, “that’s great, because we grow your food too.” Reassured by the group’s inclusive approach, she joined in the conversation, leaving with a smile on her face and positive feelings for America’s farmers.


To learn more about CommonGround, click here.