Film crew focuses on Mid-Atlantic for program
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
CORDOVA, Md. — “I’m Chip Councell, a Maryland farmer, and I want to give you a year of free groceries.”
Councell stood in a field of soybeans on his farm on Three Bridge Branch Road near Easton, and voiced those same words, three, four, five times, for a camera.
It was last Tuesday afternoon. The camera crew moved from the farm and the homestead to the family’s nearby roadside market on Route 50, where family members waited for their turn in front of the camera.
It was the second day of a planned five days of shooting for a national get-to-know-your-neighborhood farmer program across the Mid-Atlantic.
Already firmly established in the Midwest, the program here is sponsored by a coalition of agricultural commodity groups and farmers from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware who are partnering to launch Mid-Atlantic Farmers Feed US in January 2012.
The film crew from Missouri launched its East Coast visit in Maryland on the Councell farm. Councell is veteran member of the Maryland Grain Producers Association and was recently elected to the board of the US Grains Council.
If it stayed on schedule, the film crew would have visited nine other farms over the course of last week.
According to Mark Crouser, who directs the program for the Center for Food Integrity, the Councell farm was No. 73 in the program that began 2 1/2 years ago and has touched down in nine other states across the Midwest.
“We will have visited 79 when we leave the Mid-Atlantic,” he said.
The program will debut on Jan. 3, backed up by a high-powered advertising campaign that will encourage consumers to go the Farmers Feed US website at www.FarmersFeedUS.org.
“The Mid-Atlantic Farmers Feed US program is a tremendous opportunity to introduce the region’s consumers to the hard-working men and women who raise healthy, nutritious and affordable food,” said Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity.
“We need to show that even though our systems have changed and our use of technology has increased, the farmer’s commitment to do what’s right has never been stronger.”
Open to residents of those three states and Washington, D.C., the program will offer consumers the chance to win one of four “Free Groceries for a Year” sweepstakes prizes, while introducing them to 10 of the region’s farmers. The value of those prizes is $5,000 each.
Commodities represented by those featured farmers include soybeans, dairy, beef cattle, hogs, mushrooms, roasters, layers, vegetables, watermelons and corn.
In addition to Councell, a grain and soybean farmer and roadside marketer, Mid-Atlantic Farmers Feed US will include: Carla Blackwell McKinney, a Pennsylvania mushroom grower; Jesse Vanderwende, a Delaware grower of roaster chickens; Allison and Burli Hopkins, a Lewes, Del. dairy family; Mike Harrison, a Woodbine, Md. soybean grower; Brian Kreider, a Pennsylvania soybean producer; a Lancaster County, Pa. pork producer; a Marietta, Pa., egg producer; Jay Baxter, a Delaware producer of vegetables and cucumbers; and Jordan Calloway, who grows watermelons in Mardela Springs, Md
The program will be the largest Farmers Feed US campaign to date and the largest image-building campaign ever undertaken on behalf of farmers and farming in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The Maryland Soybean Board — along with the United Soybean Board and the respective soybean boards in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana and South Dakota — were founding sponsors of the campaign. They have been joined by the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board, the Pennsylvania Pork Board, the National Pork Board, Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit and the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Turkey Hill is donating “free ice cream for a year” as an extra prize, and Perdue Farms is chipping in with free chicken for a year.
Here’s how it works:
A massive paid, social and earned media campaign will drive consumers to the website, where consumers get the chance to win free groceries for a year and other prizes by registering and watching short videos about our farmers.
Consumers can enter once a day with each farmer on the site for the sweepstakes’ 90-day period. They can visit www.FarmersFeedUS.org now and check out the campaigns in other states as a preview.
Exit surveys from participants in other states show that 95 percent of consumers who viewed the site found the farmers featured there to be “knowledgable” and “the kind of person I want producing my food.”
“Farmers Feed US” is based on consumer research conducted by the Center for Food Integrity that proves that “shared values” are three to five times more important than demonstrating competence in building consumer trust.
The program uses a variety of strategies to engage consumers with those who produce food, including featuring the region’s farmers in online video farm tours, earned and social media and television advertisements.
Through this engagement, farmers will build public trust by demonstrating they share the same values as consumers. Since July 2009, Farmers Feed US has been connecting farmers and consumers in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois.
During that time, those programs have accounted for more than 1.25 million consumer sweepstakes registrations, with each one introducing consumers to farmers from their state.
Additionally, the program has built a consumer “opt-in” list of more than 80,000 consumers in participating states, who requested on-going communication on farming and food, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with more than 18,000 followers.
The Center for Food Integrity is a non-profit organization established to build consumer trust and confidence in today’s food system.
Members, who represent every segment of the food system, are committed to providing accurate information and issues important to consumers.
For more information, visit www.foodintegrity.org
The campaign is just one of three soybean checkoff-supported programs aimed at the non-farming public. While Farmers Feed US focuses on the everyday consumer, a new program called “CommonGround” is training farm women to talk with their urban and suburban peers, engaging them with a “shared values” approach.
A third program, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, is taking a strategic approach.
USFRA research showed that just six percent of the adults online are driving 80 percent of the national conversations about food and how it is produced.
Further research identified about 1,000 opinion leaders and influencers, and a series of town halls and targeted outreach started in August 2011.