Farmers and consumers can feel like they’re a world apart, but in reality, there are shared ideals when it comes to food – the desire for quality food that’s nourishing and produced in a responsible manner.
This sentiment was the focus of a recent BASF dinner event that featured leaders and stakeholders from across the ag industry and beyond.
Paul Rea, senior vice president for BASF Agricultural Solutions North America, explained how the shared vision of consumers and farmers can be achieved, “The future of ag will be driven by the call for better yield – yield that‘s produced in ways that are recognized as valuable by society, are kind to the planet, and help farmers earn a good living as they do the biggest job on earth.”
The new BASF Center for Sustainable Agriculture served as the backdrop for the fourth Dinner is Grown event held Mon., April 25. Earlier in the day, a ribbon cutting ceremony marked the official opening of the Center to the public.
The dinner event, which served to stimulate intimate conversation about the sustainability of food and agriculture, was the ideal opportunity to introduce the Center to the public. Now, more than ever, people are asking the important questions about how food is grown like where it comes from and how it gets to our dinner plates. Dinner is Grown sparked conversation about these important topics and more with individuals from different perspectives who don’t always have the chance to dine together.
BASF Agricultural Solutions started Dinner is Grown in 2019 to gather farmers, media, and community voices from across the country to discuss important questions related to farming and to take them along the journey of producing food for America’s tables. The purpose of the event was to make connections, build relationships, and have critical conversations that foster a greater understanding between today’s farmers and consumers.
Key discussion points included food insecurity and underserved populations, gene-edited foods, sustainable agriculture and what it means for all stakeholders, the impact of supply chain issues on agriculture, and consumers’ opinions of today’s food system.
Farmers participating in Dinner is Grown included Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation; Kamal Bell, chief executive officer of Sankofa Farms; Adrian Locklear of Locklear Brothers Farm, who is also a board member of the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association; and Donnie Lassiter of Lassiter Family Farms.
Additional attendees included Brie Arthur, a horticulturist and author of Brie Grows; Kelly Racette from The Nature Conservancy; Cara Harbstreet, registered dietician and owner of Street Smart Nutrition; and Tessa Nguyen, founder and principal of Taste Nutrition Consulting.
Members of the media also participated in the event, including Frank Graff from PBS North Carolina, Kelly Godbey from Ideal-Living Magazine, Trevor Griner of Food News Media, and Leoneda Inge of WUNC radio. Lisa Merritt from American Scientist joined for conversation at the pre-dinner reception.
To spur productive conversation, there was a mix of farmers, media members, dieticians and BASF employees at each dinner table.
Grower Adrian Locklear explained the communication challenge for farmers.
“One of the biggest challenges farmers face is telling our stories,” said Locklear. “People really don’t understand what we do, the challenges we face, and the successes we experience. We can do a better job of communicating with consumers and we encourage consumers to have an open mind about farming.”
Trevor Griner from Food News Media explained the media’s role in sharing farmers’ stories.
“As members of the media, it’s our responsibility to make what’s important interesting, and what’s interesting important,” said Griner. “Farmers need to tell their stories. Events like this help. And another great way to inform people about sustainability in agriculture is to get them out on a farm.”
Paul Rea explained how consumers can empathize with the challenges of farmers.
“We created the Center to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers,” explained Rea. “We saw the opportunity to engage with various stakeholders to not only showcase agriculture but also provide information about what’s making agriculture more productive and more sustainable than ever in the face of growing food demands.”
The Dinner is Grown meal was grown and sourced locally to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the agricultural food system in North Carolina.
While Dinner is Grown was just one evening, the conversation does not stop there. The event venue, the BASF Center for Sustainable Agriculture, is a place where farmers, consumers, and anyone wanting to learn more about sustainable agriculture can go to increase their knowledge on topics that are driving sustainable agriculture forward. The Center showcases BASF’s initiatives and results from its ongoing commitment to advancing sustainability in agriculture. For more information on Dinner is Grown, visit www.DinnerisGrown.com. For more information on the BASF Center for Sustainable Agriculture, visit www.center-for-sustainable-ag.com.