This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.
Missouri farmer Chris Chinn is taking on a high-profile role as one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s “Faces of Farming and Ranching.”
Chinn, who raises 1,500 hogs, 60 head of cattle and grows corn, soybeans, hay and rye with her husband Kevin on their family farm in Clarence, Mo., will be traveling the country to answer questions about how food is raised and how it gets from the farm to the table.
Chinn’s no stranger to speaking in public. She has been the chair of the American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers program and a member of the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors. But she said she applied to be part of the alliance's program because consumers have so many misconceptions about how their food is produced:
"A lot of people are scared and rightfully so. Because if I wasn't involved hands on in agriculture, some of the things that I read would scare me too. And so I think it's really valuable for farmers and ranchers to have a presence through social media and to be engaging in these conversations about how we care for our animals and our land because people who are outside of agriculture don't have that connection. You know, it used to be everybody was either raised on a farm or their grandparents were farmers. And today that's not the case. And so, people don't have the opportunity to be on a farm and to learn at some point in their lives what happens. And so I think this is really important for all of us in agriculture to be starting to tell the story and have conversations to help people understand what happens."
When asked if there were any specific myths about agriculture she was interested in dispelling, she said it was important for people to understand that farmers should help educate the public about how technology had changed on the farm:
"I think each consumer has a different level of knowledge about what technology is used on the farm. You know a lot of farmers today are using GPS to plant their crops, to harvest their crops and to fertilize their fields. And on our farm, we're using it to sample our soil and find out exactly what each section of soil on our farm needs. And then we test our manure from our hogs as well to see what the nutrient content is. And that helps us apply the right amount of fertilizer to our land so that we don't over-fertilize or under-fertilize. And this is something that 30 years ago farmers didn't do."
She said people also have a lot of questions about how their meat is raised:
"Like today we moved our hogs indoors. And when Kevin and I first started farming, we still had our hogs outdoors. But because consumers want a leaner piece of meat today, we had to change genetics of our hogs, which means they have a lot less body fat on them. so it's more difficult for them to stay warm in the wintertime. and since a hog can't sweat in the summer, it's hard for them to cool their bodies down. And so that's just one of the many reasons that we moved our hogs indoors. But people don't know that if we don't talk about it."
The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, which is made up of more than 80 farmer- and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners, will give Chinn a $10,000 dollar stipend. She will also be able to choose an agriculture-related charity to direct a $5,000 grant to. The other "Faces of Farming and Ranchers" -- chosen from more than 100 candidates nationally -- are from Alabama, Illinois and North Carolina.
Learn more about Chris Chinn in this video she submitted for the contest: