Feb 20, 2014

I'm Farming and I'm Dangerous!

Watch out! I’m farming and I am very dangerous!  My name is Sophia Marshall and I am with the Industrial Food Image Bureau!
Ok, so my name is Kristin, and I am not really with any food image consultation company. I am actually a farmer.  Am I dangerous? Depends on who you ask…
I did just kick my workout partner in the jaw while trying to balance on a workout ball attempting to do stomach crunches and I have knocked a person or two off a hay wagon before. So a Danger I may be.
If we want to get specific, I am a small farmer who owns a cooking company that uses local foods. In fact, my business was started in part due to the amount of misinformation about food and farming that is floating around out there. I wanted a way I could reach out to people who were interested in local foods and had questions. 
As a farmer, I wanted to make sure people got straight forward, honest answers from the farmers who work hard to grow the food we all eat. I wanted to have conversations with the people eating my food that had questions about how I farm. I also wanted to explain that I think it is pretty amazing how others farm on a larger scale and do it just as well, if not better, than what I do. Roll back those barn doors and let's answer all the questions you may have! We have absolutely nothing to hide — especially not cows that eat petroleum capsules.
When I first heard about “Farmed and Dangerous” coming out, my first feeling was, “Why can’t we all just get along!” I was not going to watch this mini satire just out of principle, but I decided to watch. I am actually glad that I did, in fact I watched it twice. 
There were some great lines such as “Organic farmers will fertilize their pants!” I must say I laughed a few times at the clever puns and wit. The best may have been when Buck searched the Internet for “Exploding Cows” and he forgot to clear his search history…he had previously been searching some interesting things. The show had great music and they picked a pretty handsome group of actors to portray their parts in the food system.
I try to keep a very open mind and completely support consumer food choices and growing practices. It is pretty fantastic that we even have so many food options.
I have struggled with Chipotle before, but appreciate their support of niche farmers they source food from. I do find it difficult when I hear and see such an inaccurate portrayal of what farming actually is and I cannot help but take it personally. I think “Farmed and Dangerous” cost a lot of high priced burritos to produce and they were looking for a BIG REACTION and wanted to see outrage from those of us who do not share their same viewpoint. I can appreciate their concern for ethically raised foods. Who doesn’t want healthy safe and humanly cared for foods? I think on this we can all agree.
From my perspective from the farm, I think many of the portrayals in the film (though satirical) were actually somewhat representative of reality, with a couple of key exceptions. Chip the farmer is smart, successful and very knowledgeable and caring about the food he produces — just like pretty much every farmer I know. The PR folks (though I do know some really good and honest PR folks) are appropriately unscrupulous and conniving for the purpose of the message.
And, there is no doubt that there is big business manipulation of agriculture for monetary gain as portrayed by Mick with his exploding cattle. But, I would argue that, rather than “Big Ag” trying to peddle poison for profit, the real deception out there is “Big Chipotle” peddling lies and misinformation to give a perceived benefit to their products over the competition — goading consumers into ponying up more cash for their “healthy” burritos.
Let’s stop slinging inaccurate information and farmers and Chipotle get down to what we both do best, raise food and make burritos. Whether you choose to eat their burrito or not, let’s not have a foodfight! Instead, we should all come together at the table and have a great conversation about food and farming without all of the profit driven “Big Chipotle” smoke and mirrors about the food system. This seems a whole lot more logical and actually productive. Maybe we can even discuss it over an exploding burrito.


Feb 17, 2014

A Powerful Program in Agriculture: AgriPower

It was 2011 and I had a lot going on in my life. I worked full time, was starting up a new business, raising two kids and then you add in what I call “Farm Crossfit”  — the farm chores.  At the time, Sandy Kuhn was in charge of AgriPower Institute and we began to chat about the AgriPower program. It sounded like a very exciting learning opportunity, but I was so busy, I was not sure I could add one more thing to my plate. I decided to bite the bullet and apply.

I was selected and received a tuition scholarship from several commodity organizations that covered my participation costs. In the program, I met some of the most amazing people in Ohio agriculture. Our class was diverse in age and in their involvement in agriculture. Some worked in agribusiness, some were full time farmers and others just had an interest in agriculture and politics. When I began the program, I did not know one person in my class. By the end of the first morning session, I had an entirely new group of friends in agriculture.

I not only learned about our government, business practices and agriculture, but I learned about myself and how to better contribute to Ohio agriculture and explore other farming operations. During this class I developed the network and skills to set out on my own personal agricultural journey. I truly believe that AgriPower laid the groundwork for me to start conversations with people about food and farming. As a result, I have had unbelievable opportunities to attend USFRA events and CommonGround media events all over the country and share my story with hundreds of thousands of people through my blog, TV, radio and speaking engagements.
I had the opportunity to participate in a National TV and Radio
media tour sharing about Agriculture. I met LaVell Winsor
a farmer from Kansas. Check out her blog

I strongly encourage you to take the time out of your already busy life to not only learn how you can benefit from this program, but how others can benefit from you and your story. We all have so much to offer in our own unique way. Our class was fun and we became a close group of friends. We are spread out all over the state yet we are always there as a resource, reference and a support system for each other. I am so proud to know my classmates in AgriPower IV. Some of my classmates have gone on to serve on state and national commodity boards, major job advancements, Township Trustees and work on political campaigns. It was an honor to be selected as a participant in this program and I encourage you to take the time and accept the challenge to be an AgriPower participant!
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. —Jack Welch