Farm to Table tour has the right idea - Ag groups help people understand that food doesn't just come from the grocery shelf

Editorial from the Great Falls Tribune

August 16, 2002

The foundation of Montana's economy is under siege.

As if it's not tough enough to raise a profitable crop or herd each year -- especially during drought -- the state's farmers and ranchers face assault on the political and public relations fronts as well.

Trade policies, federal politics and the ever-shifting demands of consumers are among them.

The ag community can respond by hunkering down and hoping to survive.

Or it can follow the lead of two buses heading out of Great Falls this week.

In a "Farm to Table" tour, local ag groups brought teachers, politicians and others out to the country for a close-up look at how the industry works.

"We just want people to understand the true picture of agriculture," said Montana Farmers Union Vice President Diana Adamson.

"I think they need to understand that you don't just buy something off the (grocery store) shelf and there it is."

We've long advocated on these pages the need for such education.

That becomes especially important, as the industry grows more complex.

Federal farm policies and payouts are increasingly baffling to people not in the industry.

Add in the mysteries of such technology as irradiation and the contradictory information about genetically altered food, and it's not surprising that consumers are confused.

Education is key to helping consumers understand -- and hopefully support -- agriculture in Montana.

The tour sponsored by the Farmers Union and the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee is a good start.

We encourage similar efforts from other farm and ranch organizations.

Further, we'd recommend that they try to reach beyond the borders of Montana, where ag is pretty well recognized as the economic foundation.

They may not end the siege, but they could give agriculture in Montana a fighting chance.

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