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Maria Boerngen

Mentor Department



American consumers have a lack of trust towards agriculture producers. With less than 2 % of the population being directly involved in farming, the general public has lost touch with where their food comes from and are becoming more concerned about the overall production of crops and livestock. This fear stems from consumers getting false information from unreliable resources. A recent report found that younger adults have more trust in technological sources such as bloggers, fitness apps, and TV personalities than in information from farmers and scientists ("2018 Food," 2018). These sources that are not directly involved in production agriculture have generated negative perceptions of GMOs and livestock production. Wunderlich and Gatto found that 70% of respondents were afraid of GMOs and afraid to eat food that contains traces of GM products because the respondents believe GMOs are dangerous; this same majority also knows very little or nothing at all about GMOs (2015). The same can be said for the livestock industry. A majority of Americans think that "factory farms" outnumber family farms, and that these "factory farms" have no sense of animal welfare or humane handling of livestock. Farmers see negative media stories about agriculture too. Even though they know the truth about what goes on in production agriculture, it can be difficult to get that message out to consumers. Because of this, producers are now in a position of needing to advocate for agriculture, and this involves doing a better job at telling their story to whoever will listen in hopes of regaining the trust of consumers. However, despite the negative views from consumers, it seems as though there may be hope for the image of the agriculture industry. Consumers see family farmers, specifically, as trustworthy sources for all food-related issues, however, they do not realize that family farms make up 97% of all the farms in America. This study aims to address the information gap between farmers and the non-farming public. We will bring farm and non-farm students together to discuss the agriculture industry and challenges that farmers face. Through questionnaires administered prior to this experience, we will measure the non-farm students' perceptions of farming, and the farm students' beliefs about how farming is perceived. Follow-up questionnaires will evaluate how these perceptions and beliefs change as a result of this experience. Our overall goal is to contribute to a mutual understanding between farmers and non-farmers.

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