Beyond Thankful: Agriculture's New Consumer Mindset - Herdmark Media
Beyond Thankful: Agriculture's New Consumer Mindset

Beyond Thankful: Agriculture's New Consumer Mindset

February 19, 2018

"If you ate today, thank a farmer." Trust me, I had one of these stickers too. I grew up on a farm and I’m still very proud of the fact my dad helps feed the world. I always loved the feeling of pride I associate with saying “Thank a Farmer.” It always made me feel significant knowing my family was feeding the world.

As I’ve worked at understanding consumers and learning to meet people where they are, I’ve realized, if we're not careful, this same sense of pride can also lead us to a mentality of feeling as though others owe us those thanks. In an even more extreme version, we can start believing consumers shouldn't dare to question our production methods and should, instead, just be thankful for their food.

I most certainly appreciate the connection “If you ate today, thank a farmer” makes between meals and their origination. I also appreciate farmers and love when other folks thank farmers. In fact, I’ve personally doubled my Culver’s intake since their “Thank you farmers!” campaign began, so I do not take lightly all the good this saying has done. Even so, I believe we’ve entered a new era in communicating with consumers. In this new era, the “thank a farmer” message might not be the best message we have at our disposal.

What would happen if instead of asking for thanks, we began asking the question, "What food can we grow for you today?" 

Socioeconomics aside, I love that we live in a country where market demands create new niches in the food industry and that consumers have the opportunity to buy food produced in a variety of ways. I love that farmers, ranchers and growers have the freedom to produce food to meet these market demands.

Being a farmer or living this lifestyle isn't an entitlement. We most certainly have the right, just as anyone would in this country, to start or continue a business in food and farming and most of us are beyond thankful to have this opportunity. However, if we forget that “Thank a Farmer” is intended to connect food to its origin, and instead embrace it as a mantra to defend our role in society, then we are acting from a place of entitlement.

What would happen if instead of asking for thanks, we began asking the question, "What food can we grow for you today?"

If it is not already apparent, the consumer landscape and the farmer-consumer relationship is going to continue to shift. In a lot of ways, this shift has led us to feel as if we need to defend our position.  Yet the fact will forever remain; everyone needs to eat and the need for economically produced food is not going away. To facilitate a new consumer mindset, we need to recognize that farmers and the overwhelming majority of consumers are on the same team. We need to move into the future side-by-side.The more we can be consumer-focused, rather than producer-centric, the more sustainable our industry will be.

We absolutely must continue sharing our story. We must continue working hard to ensure consumers have access to the best information about their food and how it’s grown. We must continue to make decisions that keep our individual operations viable, because at the end of the day, society does need us to work the land and grow food. So, should we thank farmers? Absolutely. But maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't be the ones asking to be thanked.

Fan Challenge: If you could convey one message to consumers in 2017, what would it be?

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