Why I Advocate
By Amy Hansmann, urban mom and Cook County Farm Bureau® volunteer
News today is full of negative stories, including many about how food is grown and raised. Because of the media onslaught, my playground conversations changed from the best after school opportunities for my son to whether farmers were drenching their crops with chemicals. Between the media, my conversations, and even the food labels I began to worry about the choices I was making. Not so much about nutrition, but about safety, environmental impact, and animal welfare.
In my urban landscape complete with our condo on the 40th floor, I was far removed from where my food was grown, and it seemed best to follow the trends and assume that what the media and my acquaintances were telling me was true.
I’ve always felt that my educational achievements and current reading list kept me informed, but I began to realize that my information was coming from limited sources. Shortly after moving to a new community just a few miles away, I learned about the Illinois Farm Families® (IFF) program and was excited because I value challenging my perspectives and learning new things.
IFF is a program that brings together Illinois farm families and urban moms to discuss modern farming practices and how farmers grow and raise food we eat.
My first IFF tour took me to beef, dairy, and a corn and soybean farms and WOW was I challenged! Ideas that seemed scary in the media made more sense in context and with detail. Organic, while a perfectly fine choice, is not synonymous with clean, better or healthy. Insights from farmers on plant and animal breeding were like a fresh course in practical biology. Even a topic I still find scary, chemical fertilizer, is less so when you realize the applicators are educated, trained, licensed and using it with precision.
As I went on more tours of Illinois farms and associated businesses, the program opened my eyes to the complexities and realities on our farms and the incredible personal investment and passion of farmers.
Now that I know more about the realities of food production, I have been eager to share my insight and dispel misconceptions. I think it is important to counter the mainly negative media messages about farming and provide information that is factual and useful for an everyday setting. There are many areas that are not controversial, but many consumers truly don’t know where their food comes from, don’t have access to gardens (even fresh food) or understand that marketing labels are intended to sell food and are not an indicator of quality. My participation with the Cook County and Illinois Farm Bureaus has given me a deeper understanding and peace of mind to make good choices for my family and a platform for sharing with other urban families.