Tuesday night, my oldest daughter and I traveled to Omaha to attend a dinner conference hosted by Common Ground.  When I received the invitation a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what Common Ground was about.  Today, I feel so blessed to have attended the dinner and to have been given the opportunity to meet, visit with and hear these hard-working and knowledgeable women speak.

common ground

Common Ground is an organization of farm women dedicated to reaching consumers with the truth about America’s family farms and the food they produce for our tables.  Their mission is to engage consumers in conversations about food and farming and to share the truth and facts that are often mis-reported or skipped over in popular media.  They aren’t politicians, lobbyists or corporate number crunchers.  They are wives and moms, like you and me, who are devoted to their husbands, families and the livelihood God has provided them — their family farms.  They shop at the same grocery stores, purchasing and preparing the same food for their own families, as you and I.  They have as vested an interest, as any of us, in the safety and nutrition of our food supply.

Most of these farm women are members of the second, third or even more generations of their families to work their farms, producing food for their families, communities and beyond, for decades.  This way of life is not a passing-fancy for them.  It’s a passion and a tradition passed to them from others who instilled the love of the land and what it could produce for our nation, in each of them.  The misconceptions, misinformation and outright lies about American farms and the food they produce, endanger the hard work of these dedicated farm families and those of us who need the products they produce.  Dispelling the myths, providing facts and education and engaging consumers in conversations about the real truth about the food we eat is the way these smart women build a solid foundation for future generations of American farmers, pass on the practices that will help to ensure safe food products for American consumers and allow consumers to get the truth about our food supply first-hand, instead of funneled through those who have agendas that color their “reporting” of the “facts”.

program

The Common Ground question and answer brochure and recipe cards with the farm women's bios printed on the back. The recipe cards were distributed as party favors.

The format for the evening was perfect for engaging guests in the conversation.  I really enjoyed the way things were presented.  First, we got to hear from several of the fabulous Common Ground volunteers, farm women who graciously shared their stories about family and farming, personalizing a process that so many of us take for granted and often misunderstand.  Then these learned women, joined our dinner tables and got to know us, answering our questions and concerns in conversation over dinner.  As dinner progressed, Dr. Ruth MacDonald, head of the Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University took the podium and rather than engaging in an hour-long lecture, spent the entire time, fielding questions from the audience.  Dr. MacDonald has a PhD in Nutrition and Food Science.  She is also a registered dietician.  The overall focus of the research team she heads at Iowa State is to identify factors in foods that reduce the incidence or progression of cancer.

I wish I could share the entire content of our evening with you, but I will highlight some of the questions and answers that I think will be of greatest interest to you.  I encourage you to visit the Common Ground website or follow them on Facebook and get your information firsthand from the people who “live” it every day, (not as some unknown, uncaring corporate entities, like the media would have you believe farming is handled), but as the caretakers and laborers on America’s centuries-old family farms.  The perpetuation of their heritage and their very livelihoods depend on producing safe, sustainable products for consumers.  I find that a compelling reason to value their first-hand knowledge of what is true when it comes to farming and food production.

Below, I want to highlight three of the questions that were raised and the answers that were given.  It is just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to all that we were able to discuss and learn, but I DO think that all three are topics of concern, in our present day, and my understanding of the issues was challenged by the straight-forward and logical answers we received.

  1. Should we use only organic foods, in order to avoid chemicals and pesticides on our fruits and vegetables?  Organic farmers ARE allowed to use chemicals to produce and protect their crops.  It is a different class of chemicals, but there are around 150 approved for organic farming.  I was able to come home and easily find the list online.  You can actually go to the National Archives and Records Administration and read through the lists of what is allowed for use in organic farming.                                                                             ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
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  2. What is the danger of high fructose corn syrup?  As I have always suspected, there is essentially no nutritional difference between high fructose corn syrup and table sugar.  Dr. MacDonald can explain it more eloquently than I, but essentially high fructose corn syrup=55% fructose and table sugar (sucrose)=55% fructose, which=0 difference in calories or nutrition, and clearly shows that the real key is not to vilify one over the other, but to exercise moderation in the consumption of either, as with all foods.                                                               …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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  3. Will GMO products be labeled as such, in the near future?  Because we have been genetically modifying foods for centuries through cross-breeding, grafting, etc., which adds or remove genes from the DNA strands and changes the genetic makeup of the plant, the government’s stand, at this time, is that there is no need to label GMO products just because we have now developed a simpler and more efficient method for extracting or adding those genes and creating the hybrids in a new way.                                                                              …………………………………………………………………………………..

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Regardless, of your beliefs on these issues, I know that as wives and moms we are all equally concerned about providing safe, healthy food for our families. The women of Common Ground desire the same thing and they are anxious to have meaningful dialogues with women like you and me, about these topics. They are some of the most genuine and sincere women I have ever met and I encourage you to investigate for yourself, all that they have to share.

I was invited as a consumer guest, to the Common Grounds Dinner. I did not know any of the members and was not compensated for this post. I simply feel that it is information that needs a voice and any personal views and opinions expressed are wholly my own.

28 Responses to Common Ground: Farm Women from America’s Family Farms Take a Stand to Provide the Truth to Consumers

  1. What a fantastic opportunity! It’s so important that people learn about these things. Thanks for sharing!

  2. thank you for sharing this…loads of info that is good to know!!! we all have common ground!!!

  3. diane says:

    I am certainly all for supporting the family farms! I buy all my beef and pork and eggs from a farmer in the next town. I disagree about the HFCS issue mainly because I would prefer the least processed sweetener possible but that is my own personal opinion…I also agree with moderation. I may drink organic milk and buy only grass fed beef but I am known to kick back with a diet Coke and Cheetos on a Friday night!

    • I completely understand Diane. I have been known to indulge in a refreshing Coca Cola, now and then and over again. ;) What I love about this opportunity is hearing the whole story, not just one side of it, so I can make an informed decision, based on complete information; and that it is built around conversation, not ridicule and name-calling. I appreciate your honesty and I’m so glad you stopped by!

  4. This is so interesting Glenda-such great information. I fully support the work of our farmers (and their wives) and for keeping food on our tables, we should all be thankful!

    • We DO take so much for granted when it comes to how our food gets to our table and our expectations are incredibly high. I’m thankful for them, too, Julie. I’m sure glad you stopped in!

  5. Kathy Murphy says:

    Great Information! I thought organic meant no chemicals…. Thanks for sharing.

    • I always thought the same thing, Kathy. It’s always a shock to realize how gullible I have been in just accepting mainstream rhetoric without getting the full story and both sides of an issue. I appreciate being able to make my decisions based on full information, rather than half-truths. Thanks for the visit!

  6. Meaty article with a lot of great information and thoughtful insights! Keep up the great work!

  7. Deborah Rosen says:

    I have a lot of respect for farm women but the fact remains that they’re stakeholders in the “good food” dialogue so, like all stakeholders, everything they say has to be heard in that context.

    I want clean, safe, good food for myself and my family. I want to be able to make informed decisions when I’m shopping, so I want to know the difference between organic and conventional growing systems. I know the difference between chemicals that show up in my food vs. allowed chemicals that are used, for example, to clean farm equipment or power tractors, and if the farm women are going to use the “organics use chemicals, too,” line, they need to be up front about the difference, too. And, if GMOs are safe, why is the chemical lobby spending billions to keep the GMO label off our food? I know the difference between a hybrid food and a GMO food. I insist on having the choice to decide what’s good for my family but if the chemical industry, aided and abetted by the politicians they buy, insist on keeping it from me, then I have to ask myself why…and so should you.

    • Deborah, I certainly appreciate your concerns and I couldn’t agree with you more. We all want clean, safe, good food for our families. Even the intelligent women who presented the information about their livelihoods on Tuesday evening. Since they eat and prepare food for their families from the same grocery stores that we do, they have as much at stake. It is reasonable to assume that they would not want to introduce toxins or poisons into the people they love, with the work they do. And since their livelihoods, as you mention, make them stakeholders in the industry, it is even more critical to the success of their businesses, that what they produce be safe and marketable.

      Rules regarding pesticide use, the types and timing before harvest, are strict and enforced. Since the foods we buy have been tested before even being processed, for levels of chemicals and toxins, and anything that is considered contaminated is not even allowed to be processed, much less to be shipped to stores, it’s reasonable to assume that the bulk of our food supply is safe. While accidents can certainly happen, those would not be limited to non-organic farms or food-processing, only.

      As to the reasoning for GMO being, or not being, listed on food packaging, I think Dr. MacDonald did a very good job of explaining that, in the video. Public perception can prevent use of good, safe products, as with irradiated foods, simply because people don’t understand the process or have enough information to make an informed choice. Irradiated foods are almost non-existant, now, but I wonder how many of those who objected, cook food daily in a microwave?

      I, (and I believe Common Ground, too), am in complete agreement with you, that we should all have the choice to decide what’s good for our families. That’s what the conversation is about — being sure that ALL the scientific evidence is being presented, not just the latest politically correct hype. Regardless of which side of the issue you are on, having full and complete information is a benefit to us all. You are absolutely right! Thank you so much for sharing your concerns and stopping by!

  8. Claire says:

    Glenda, I am so glad that you were able to join us on Tuesday evening. Your post was written much better than I could have ever done. If you ever need anything or have more questions please let us know. (Claire Masker, Iowa Corn Communications Manager)

    • Claire, it was a real eye-opener for me and I am so grateful for the opportunity to dialogue and ask questions, so that I understand the issues fully and don’t get caught up in just one side of the information. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I hope you’ll come around, again, and check out some of my recipes and family-friendly giveaways!

  9. Joan says:

    Glenda, thank you very much for your blog post about the dinner. I enjoyed meeting and dining with you! Your positive energy comes through as strong in print as in person. I would love to chat more with Deborah about why we volunteer. If I want to know how houses are built I ask a carpenter. If I want to know how my car works I ask a mechanic. I volunteer for CommonGround because I want people to have someone they can ask about how cattle are fed and cared for in a feedlot. As you stated we are all concerned about providing safe and healthy food and for me it begins right here at home!

    • Joan, I’m so glad I met you and your husband! What a fabulous time visiting about our families, homeschooling, life and farming. It was such a great evening! I agree that visiting with someone who has hands-on experience in any field is the way to get the most accurate information. I’m so grateful that you are willing to share all you know. Thanks so much for visiting the blog and I hope you have an awesome weekend!

  10. Suzanne says:

    As one of the Common Ground ladies I want to thank you for taking time from your busy schedule and joining us Tuesday evening. As a mom of three sons I definately want a safe, quality, and ecomonical food supply just like every mom does. However, as a farmer, I also see the value in using the technologies available to farmers to produce enough food to feed this ever growing world. Dr. MacDonald reinforced my belief that here in the US we can have our cake and eat it too!
    Here is the address to my blog about Iowa farm life: http://suzannecommonground.blogspot.com. I would love to have you stop in sometime and take a look.
    If you ever have any questions please do not hesitate to contact any of the Common Ground volunteers. We love taking about food!

    • Thank you, Suzanne. It was a great and educational evening for both my daughter and me. I really appreciate you taking the time to come by the blog. Who knew I would meet so many great moms/friends at the dinner? It’s a pleasure to have you stop by and I’m headed over to give your blog a visit, as well!

  11. Hi Glenda,
    Thanks so much for joining us on Tuesday! We really enjoyed getting to talk to everyone and had an amazing response. I really appreciate you sharing a blog about the evening and am glad you shared the video! I would just like to echo what Suzanne said, never hesitate to contact any of our Common Ground team we love to talk about farming, food, and family!
    Hilary Maricle
    Common Ground Volunteer
    Albion, NE

  12. Shana Beattie says:

    Hey Glenda,
    Thanks for sharing about our evening together. I know everyone is busy, particularly at this Christmas time of year. That is so neat many of you could take time out of your busy schedules to enjoy some great pork and beef with all of us. It is our pleasure to share our stories of what we do daily on the farm and our contribution to safe, quality food. I love the scripture quoted on the top of your blog. How awesome! Merry Christmas and keep in touch. Blessing to you and yours.
    Shana Beattie
    Farmer
    Sumner, NE

  13. Darcy says:

    Very interesting, especially about the HFC being basically the same as table sugar. I thought HFC was worse.

  14. Debi says:

    I thought the chemicals used in organic farming were from natural sources though…they are not synthetically manufactured. There are farmers who don’t use any chemicals…Amy gets her meat from a farmer who uses no chemicals…so there are some out there.

    • I think that it depends. If you know the farmer personally, and trust that he is using absolutely nothing (which in reality is next to impossible if he wants to produce a marketable crop – meat, maybe), that’s one thing. But, if you use the link above, you can read the list of approved chemicals for organic farming. Some are for cleaning the equipment and machines used to process the food, some are for pest control, some are for fertilizer — Then there are many other things that people would never, ever think of coming in contact with their “organic” food, like things like streptomycine and tetracycline. Ethanol, aspirin, isopropynol, butorphynol, chlorhexadine and atropine, plus many others, are all legal for organic farmers to use to treat their animals, as long as they follow the USDA “withdrawal” period before sending them to market. Traditional farmers are already doing that, so there isn’t a lot of difference.

  15. Caci says:

    Thanks for the great post! It is wonderful to see people taking their food seriously and being open to hearing both sides of the story!

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