(Posted Sat. Aug 27th, 2016)
This summer, CommonGround Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas held Field to Fork-style dinners in each of their respective states. Between the four events, these states were able to reach nearly 300 people with in-person conversations. These events highlighted the crops grown in their regions and served a dinner of locally-grown ingredients.
The CommonGround Kansas dinner, hosted by Bismarck Gardens and Nunemaker-Ross Farms, brought more than 75 people from urban and suburban areas together with their farming and ranching counterparts just outside of Lawrence, Kansas. Over a delicious farm-grown dinner, attendees enjoyed conversations about how food is grown and raised in the state of Kansas.
“Part of my discussions with people was helping them understand that the corn we grow on the farm is different than the sweet corn families buy at the market. When we are feeding cattle or making ethanol, we’re not using up corn on the cob or canned corn,” said Lowell Neitzel who along with his wife, Krystale, thought up the event. “We also had a lot of conversations about how we use biotechnology to grow healthier, more sustainable crops on our farms.”
Thalmann Family Farm, the host for the CommonGround Minnesota “Field to Fork” farm dinner, brought together an enthusiastic crowd for an evening focused on great conversations, local agriculture and an incredible meal. The dinner, which included many CommonGround volunteer farmers, provided those in attendance with a chance to gain an important perspective on their food that can only be afforded by direct contact with farmer and a first-hand farm experience.
“I can't even put into words how much of a fun, delicious and educational experience this farm dinner was!” wrote Hot Eats and Cool Reads blogger Sheena.
The North Dakota event, which attracted more than 140 attendees, included meals that combined more than 12 crops native to North Dakota, along with three meats and honey and dairy products. The dinner, called Banquet in a Field, created conversations about food between some of the state’s most prominent influencers and CommonGround volunteers for the past three years now.
“My assessment? Sure it was effective,” said Mikkel Pates, a writer for Agweek who attended the dinner. “Even the knowledgeable learned a little more. The smart people who have little to do with agriculture normally learned something if they wanted to. A smile and a handshake are a good impression for agriculture. They eliminate fear. They encourage conversations.”
The CommonGround Texas dinner was held at the Early Settlers Farm and hosted by the Spurlock Family of Stratford, Texas. The family offered a peek into what makes the modern family farm work. Wesley, who serves as the National Corn Growers Association’s First Vice President, and Susie Spurlock farm alongside their son Walter and his wife Nicole, as well as members of their extended family.
“It was a great time for consumers to just have conversations about what farmers are doing to sustainably produce our food,” Nicole Spurlock, who is also a CommonGround volunteer, said. “Texas farmers are using the latest technologies and resources to conserve our valuable natural resources – all the while growing food we know is safe and are proud to feed their own families.”
CommonGround Texas hosted a satellite media tour the next morning which, like the event, was made possible by the Water Grows Jobs initiative, which is a partnership of the Texas Corn Producers and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Texas. The tour, which resulted in interviews airing more than 550 times and reached more than 11.5 million viewers, continues to reach American families as it airs on stations from Wyoming to New York.
CommonGround is a joint program of the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates. Through the work of farm women volunteers, CommonGround connects women on and off the farm for conversations about how food is grown and raised so that everyone can enjoy food without the fear.
Since it launched in November of 2010, CommonGround has had more than 687 million conversations with consumers. With more than 200 volunteers, CommonGround state affiliates host an activity somewhere in the country almost every other day.