An Illinois agriculture coalition formed to help consumers better understand farming and answer their questions about food production had a successful first year, according to Lori Laughlin, Illinois Farm Bureau director of issue management.
The coalition, known as Illinois Farm Families
(IFF), is comprised of commodity groups for beef, corn, pork, soybeans, and IFB.
Laughlin pointed to the comments from IFF’s first field moms, a group of Chicago-area mothers who toured farms and shared their experiences via the IFF website
, their personal blogs, and other social media.
“After all the visits they made, they’re still inquisitive and want to learn more. They must have had a valuable experience,” Laughlin said.
“The fact that they’re still curious tells us we’re focused on the right people,” she added.
The field moms expressed interest in staying involved with IFF as alums, and the coalition would like to keep them engaged in some way, Laughlin said. It also continues to plan for future field moms.
Another successful component of the program is the website
that offers a variety of information, photos, and videos of farm tours, and a question-and-answer section.
“Visitors to the website
can expect IFF to be even more engaged this year with continued input from farmers and from field moms past and present,” Laughlin said.
Looking ahead to the second year of outreach, Laughlin anticipated more opportunities for farmers who participated in consumer-mindset training.
“IFF is looking for opportunities to tap their skills and expertise,” she said. “We want to get them (the farmers) out in their communities and counties in front of consumer groups to have conversations about how their food is grown and raised.”
As for IFF’s focus, the coalition plans to continue concentrating on Chicago and its suburbs where many consumers are far removed from farming, Laughlin explained.
IFF is offering guidance and support to county organizations interested in connecting with local consumers.
“If county Farm Bureaus want to engage consumers and replicate things we have done in and near Chicago, IFB is happy to help them,” Laughlin said.