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How to Get City Folks to Understand and Support Farmers and Ranchers

By   /  May 7, 2018  /  1 Comment

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It’s a common complaint among ag producers: “Those city folk don’t understand us and they don’t even know where their food comes from!” We all talk about it, but, what are we doing about it?

In this week’s issue of On Pasture, John Marble shares what he’s doing about it. I REALLY want you to check it out, and then think about how you can do something similar. Not only is his effort at being a “vector of change” a great first step at bridging the divide between farm and city, he and his family also have a lot of fun.

What John is doing is what worked for me for years when I was at the Bureau of Land Management helping folks talk through controversial issues: Invite a wide assortment of people with different backgrounds and points of view, walk around outdoors, see the land through each others eyes, and most importantly EAT together.

Here are some ways you can get started:

Put together a list of folks to invite.
Like John, you can find these folks at events you attend. You can add folks to the list that have shown interest. You can ask friends, or local organizations that are looking for something interesting for their membership to do. When you send out your invite, let them know what to expect. (Here’s John’s invite as an example.)

Start small to grow big.
You don’t have to have a huge number of people. You want a group that’s large enough to be diverse in opinions and experiences, yet small enough that you can interact with each of them at some point along the way.

Listen and ask questions.
This is a little like a date. Help your visitors to share their own expertise and to see themselves as part of the place that they’re visiting. Help the inner-farmer/rancher/child that lives in all of us to step out and have fun.

Think ahead about logistics.
Where will they go to the bathroom? What will they drink? Do they have sunscreen and snacks? (People forgot water, sunscreen and snacks on so many of the BLM outings I took them on that I always carried a too heavy pack full of these things. Ultimately I got myself a pack-goat to carry the supplies for me. But that’s another story.)

What will they eat?
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just being outdoors and eating with each other is what you’re looking for. It gives people time to sit and consider, laugh, and ask questions. Eating together, more than anything else I’ve done in this area, is what brings people together.

Here’s my set up for a lunch with ranchers thinking about teaching their cows to eat weeds. A deli chicken meal, some cupcakes made up to look like cows, and a shade structure made with old sheets, some t-posts and my truck completed the party.

I’ve got a lot more ideas about this if you want them. Just drop me an email and ask your questions. AND – If you’ve got tips to share about how you’ve made walk-abouts work for you, let us all know in the comments below!

We can all be vectors of change and have fun doing it!

Kathy and Rachel

P.S. From our friends at A Greener World, here’s another look at the importance of farmers and ranchers doing this work.

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  • Published: 6 months ago on May 7, 2018
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  • Last Modified: May 9, 2018 @ 8:51 am
  • Filed Under: The Scoop

About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Oogie McGuire says:

    We’ve got a small farm store and are open on weekends. To get from the parking area to the store is a short walk past the winter corrals, we can see the sheep grazing in their cells out on the pasture and we also go past where I keep chickens when we raise birds. The short trip gives me a chance to ask and answer questions. We also arrange for larger tour groups in coordination with our local , orchards, vineyards, B&Bs and Wineries. Several of us team up so that visitors can tour the valley gathering food for their dinner and then cook at the B&Bs that have kitchen facilities with each group of rooms. We have several open house days where anyone can stop by get samples of our meat, shop for meat or wool products and also a more detailed farm tour.

    Our farm has 5 different solar systems in addition to the main one of the grass feeding the sheep so we are also a tour stop for Solar Energy International for their classes. We have 3 separate solar PV systems and are a net power producer of electricity. We have also reduced our need for propane for heat by using solar hot air and solar hot water in the shop building and main house respectively.

    Being open for farm tours can be draining when radical vegan or vegetarian people come and harass us but there are also the upsides when folks who formerly were vegetarians decide to start eating a bit of our meat because they know about it and can see what we are doing to be both humane and environmentally responsible.

    It’s hard work to be open on a regular basis but is critical to our farm success.

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