happy-cows

Where does my food come from?  How many Americans actually ask this question?  It’s something that I didn’t really wonder or ask until a few years ago, when I saw an episode of Dirty Jobs that took place on a pig farm.  Pigs are one of my favorite animals, and while I’m still fine with eating them, I was horrified by how they were treated.  This realization caused me to start looking more deeply at where all of our food comes from, and really changed the way our family eats.  It caused us to join our first CSA, to buy a whole cow from a local rancher, and even to start growing things ourselves.  But most importantly, it helped us realize the necessity of asking questions and talking to people about food issues.

We started watching movies like Food Inc, King Corn and Fresh.  We began visiting local farms and food producers, asking them about their experiences and what all the policies and things we hear about in the news really mean to them.  We began moving away from supporting big industry agriculture and started to promote buying local whenever we had the chance.

For the past few years, the food movement has been growing and people all over the country have been asking questions about things they’d never really thought of before.  The movement has mostly been focused on the idea of moving back toward “slow food” and supporting farmers and ranchers that use natural practices.

usfra logoBut now there’s a group called the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, or USFRA, an umbrella organization of state farm bureaus and grower’s councils, which is funded by some heavy hitters in the food industry including Monsanto, Dupont, and the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.  The USFRA’s mission is “to lead the dialogue and answer Americans’ questions about how we raise our food”.

Now I’ll be completely honest, I was very torn when I was asked to write a post for USFRA.  While they may not see themselves as a policy organization, they are definitely being funded by organizations that are, and I strongly disagree with many of the policy goals of these affiliate organizations.  I have sponsored posts on my blog, but only when I am able to free share my opinion in that post, and I wasn’t going to pretend I was aligned with USFRA.

When I voiced my concern, I was reassured that they weren’t asking me to agree with their position or the answers that they give, but simply to raise awareness of the dialogue they’re trying to create.  Now that I can do.

While I may not agree with a lot of things about the USFRA, I’m intrigued that this is movement in a new direction for the side of agriculture and ranching that used to try and keep their doors shut and refused to respond to those asking questions.

I’m also a firm believer in investigating both sides of an argument.  I feel that it takes little intelligence to spout an “opinion” simply parroting back what you’ve heard from one side, and think it’s  important to learn as much as you can and form your own viewpoint.  This is where my interest in USFRA comes in.  I am looking forward to being able to ask some of the questions I have and to investigate their rationale behind some of the practices I disagree with.

I plan to visit the USFRA website and Facebook page often to balance out some of the other websites I get news from regularly like Slow Food and Civil Eats.  This way I can know I’m getting both sides of the story and forming opinions based on evidence from both, not just emotion and passion.  I  like the opportunity to hear from commodity farmers and ranchers, whose voices are not usually a part of the food movement we’ve seen so far.  I also want to make sure that my voice and the voices of other local food supporters are heard by USFRA.  This means being a part of their discussions, asking questions like:

-With diabetes rates being as high as 1 in 3 children in many parts of the world, how is that related to the way our food is produced and how can it be changed?

-The Eat Local movement supports smaller farms, organic farmers and reduces “food miles”.  How does USFRA help in those areas?

-What kind of policies can be put into effect that will link nutrition programs to sustainable agriculture?

Join me in a dialogue about growing and raising food in the US.  Do you know where your food comes from?  Do you care?  What are your thoughts on how food is grown?  Let me know in the comments below and you will be entered to win a prize pack containing a Crock-Pot Programmable 6-Quart Slow Cooker and two reusable designer shopping bags from Envirosax.

usfra-giveaway

Here are the rules:

No duplicate comments.
You may receive (3) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods between 4/17/12 and 4/30/12:

a) Leave a comment on this post in response to the prompt above.
b) Post the following on Twitter or Facebook and leave the URL to that post in a comment below. “Win a crockpot and reusable designer shopping bags on @EatingRichly http://bit.ly/J037xv
c) Subscribe to the Eating Richly Newsletter (sent once or twice a month) to receive recipes, giveaway announcements and special goodies just for loyal readers. Leave a comment below letting me know you signed up. If you are already subscribed you can leave a comment letting me know that.

Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry.
This giveaway is open to US residents age 18 or older.
(International readers can enter if you have a US address to ship to)
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 5 days to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
The Official Rules are available here.

I was given a stipend to introduce readers to the USFRA Food Dialogues website and Facebook page.  All opinions are obviously my own.

Cow photo  by aresauburn cc license


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