Some days it seems so long ago and other days, it’s like it was yesterday. I vividly recall getting a phone call asking if I’d be available for an “on the farm” photo shoot and video interview and “something, but they weren’t sure what” would ensue from that. Now, we know that day was the start of a movement we now recognize as CommonGround.

 As farmers and ranchers of a decade ago, we were becoming keenly aware of the extent of the information gap between those of us growing food, fuel and fiber and urban consumers.  Consumers were asking more production questions than ever before and needed to know if they were providing safe food for their families. Should I do what I could to help bridge that gap? Absolutely, I should! So, I have.

Dawn Caldwell, Kristen Eggerling and Shana Beattie were the first three CommonGround Nebraska volunteers in 2010.

First, there were three of us from Nebraska and 15 volunteers total from five states.  We met and learned how to tell our farming story, answer consumer questions and, very importantly, to understand and respect varying production practices. We learned to objectively talk about conventional production, organic production, use of hormone implants, how antibiotics are utilized in livestock and more. Equally important, we thought about what we have in common with those primary shoppers who don’t live on farms. We met the consumers where they were: grocery stores, online, food shows, Mothers of Preschoolers meetings and most definitely on airplanes as we travel to and from our various events.

It is exciting to see the continually growing number of women from all across America representing all types of farms and ranches, and sharing their stories in whatever way suits them best. It is true that many hands make light work, so the more women we have participate, the greater the variety of information we share and the more likely each volunteer finds it easier to manage her schedule.

In looking at where we started compared to where we are now, I do see some changes; not in topic areas so much, but more in what audiences are most effective to reach out to.  While I, along with everyone else, absolutely love visiting directly with consumers (and I am thrilled we still get to do that), it has become critically more important to visit with decision makers within food companies, retailers, and the like.  More and more, consumers are led to purchase what a food company or retailer indicates is best by what they inventory. No different than from the inception of CommonGround, we volunteers just want consumers to have enough correct information to make wise and confident decisions for them and their families.

Since we started 10 years ago, we have grown to 45 volunteers in Nebraska and over 200 in total from 21 states. We’ve talked with millions of people, such as moms, influencers, health care professionals, retailers, food companies, the media and more. Our farm women thoroughly enjoy making connections with consumers and talking food and farm life. We also appreciate learning more from others.

CommonGround Nebraska volunteers at the 2018 Banquet on the Farm event near Omaha.

If you’re unfamiliar with CommonGround and want to learn more regarding where your food comes from and how it’s produced, never hesitate to reach out to one of our CommonGround volunteers. Although our organization is only 10 years old, we have decades and decades of experience growing food between our volunteers, and we’re excited to help answer your questions and help you make your decisions based on facts, not fear!

Happy birthday, CommonGround!