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

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!


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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