Food Dialogue…Boom or Bust?
Was the USFRA sponsored “Food Dialogue” successful?
That is the question.
I set aside the time to watch and listen to the entire dialogue, as well as follow the discussions taking place on the Food Dialogue website, Facebook page and on Twitter with #FoodD (the hashtag for the discussion).
It was my intention to listen and observe as an objective person…a challenge…but this was my take on day.
1. I was impressed with the emcee, Claire Shipman, and felt she was an excellent choice. Those who know me, also know that I am not a particular fan of many networks beyond Fox News, however, Ms. Shipman did a great job for The Food Dialogue.
2. I felt that all of the moderators did a great job except, except for Chef John Besh. Chef Besh, in my opinion, would have been better served as a panelist. I enjoy seeing him as a guest chef and on The Food Network and the Sundance Channel and feel he has much to offer when it comes to preserving and promoting ingredients, techniques, and heritage “one mouth-watering dish at a time.”
3. Realizing it was a major undertaking to put together, I was impressed with the diversity of panelists who participated. Could other segments and facets of agriculture and society have been included? Yes. It is my hope that this endeavor continues and is able to include more in the future.
4. There were many “nuggets” to garner from the panelists, no “fireworks,” and much common ground found. If the objective of the dialogue was begin on issues that would find the most agreement it was successful. If the objective of the dialogue was to find solutions to questions that tend to be polarizing, it failed. Most likely, the 10% of country that feels that agriculture is doing all it can felt “warm and fuzzy” at the conclusion. The 10% of the country that feels that agriculture is entirely focused on mass production at any cost felt that it was “AstroTurf” at the conclusion. And I am speculating that the remaining 80% felt like it was a good start, but did not go far enough.
5. I was glad to see questions taken from the audience at each of the forums. However, I was disturbed that all of the questions, except for one in New York and one in Davis, came from corporate and business professionals or doctors. If this dialogue continues in this format, diversity must be represented.
6. I was glad to see questions taken from those participating through social media. However, it was troubling to me that all but two of those questions came from individuals involved in agriculture. Once again, the diversity was lacking.
7. An abundance of material, thoughts and ideas were shared. However, even for me, a person who was very interested in the content, it was too long. Perhaps, if you were attending one of the forums in person, it may have been tolerable. As an individual watching and participating from home, office, farm, ranch, forest or orchard, it was too long. One, maybe two forums in a day is plenty.
8.I thought the videos of the farms were a great addition to include for breaks, showed the care and passion of several outstanding examples of agriculture. I realize that the videos were of panelists, however, as a “small farmer” I found myself asking “that’s great for showing the larger side of family farming, but what about the average family farmer? The one who has to continually make repairs on structures and fences and buys well used equipment that they hope they can keep running for few seasons.” We may not be as “shiny” as the others, but we are also very diligent in being sustainable, environmentally friendly and struggling to survive under regulatory pressure…we also are a face of agriculture that needs to be seen. In my humble opinion….
Some Key Statements:
Bob Stallman, President American Farm Bureau, Chairman of USFRA and Farmer from Texas. Love him, hate him or be indifferent. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Stallman, who is charged with representing the most diverse agricultural organization in the world and I for one do not always agree with AFBF positions, but truly believe he has done an outstanding job representing the voice the AFBF membership and was a great choice for being chair of USFRA.
Dan Glickman, Former Secretary of Agriculture. He was a former Representative for Kansas, before being selected by former President Clinton as the Secretary of Agriculture.
Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, World Wildlife Fund:
6. “Let’s talk about science & data, not assumptions & fears.” via JasonClay
Kathi Brock, Director, Strategic Partnerships American Humane Association Farm Animal Program
1. “As consumers, social expectations move forward…they have to expect food will cost more.” #Brock #AHA #FoodD
Dr. Neal Van Alfen, Dean of the College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences at UC Davis:
Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change:
Stuart Woolf, President of Woolf Farming and Processing:
So, were the Town Halls and Food Dialogue a boom or a bust? From my perspective, I would give an “A” for the idea, a “B-” for the variance of panelists, a “C-” for the execution of the endeavor and a “D-” for the handling of the social media aspect…overall grade…a “C.”
Whether or not there are more Town Halls like this to come in the future, which I hope there are, I share my friend Ray Prock’s sentiment when he said:
I think it is essential for all to maintain conversations, ask questions and provide insight. Statements made during this Town Hall series can provide the starting point to move on into the future. There is much that we all agree on, it is finding that common ground for us to start the conversations…then move down the road to solving challenges together.
Let us forget this idea of trying to “educate” someone…there is much to be “learned” by all who participate in helping keep agriculture transition to the future. It is about listening, caring and sharing.
Those are my thoughts, but I am just a farmer…
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