By Katie Pratt
These days when the call comes asking if a group can come tour the farm, my answer is always yes. I find tremendous satisfaction in being able to shake hands, look in a person’s eyes and answer their questions about farming in a real-life conversation.
My family and I recently hosted a group of German farmers and agriculturalists visiting the U.S. with the Transatlantic Dialogue. The group spent a week touring farms in Indiana, Illinois and Iowa, learned more about how to share their farm story and finally landed on our porch. They had a beautiful weather week to travel and be outside, until they came to our farm.
The day dawned cold and damp, made worse by the typical spring wind blowing solidly out of the northeast. My plans to enjoy our farm and conversations on our front porch changed. We landed in the garage instead and warmed up with coffee, coffee cake and almost two hours of conversation about sharing the farm story. My take-away – it doesn’t matter where a person farms, questions about how we produce our food, fuel and fiber are numerous. Big money, non-governmental organizations and deceptive marketing are our collective adversaries. Farmers from around the world are left wondering how to farm and be a full-time public relations manager. I think the whole group, myself included, spent a lot of time answering questions or sharing experiences with a shake of our heads.
The farm princess and farm boy stayed home from school, because how many times would a group from Germany come visit your farm? They took full advantage of this opportunity to grow their popcorn market share and sent every visitor home with an ear of miniature rainbow popcorn.
My farmer – not a talker – spent a lot of time talking. I love that farmers are farmers are farmers. He swapped stories about weather, compared notes on equipment and talked markets. We ventured out to the new machine shed to view equipment and then to the field to see the early stand of corn.
Hugs and handshakes were exchanged as the group left. I feel like I added to our family that day. The group lavished us with gifts, including a fun beach towel for the kids, a water bottle, pens, keychains, t-shirts that say “Ask A Farmer” in German, hats that say “#FarmingRocks” in German and a beautiful handmade tote from one of the participants, Heike Muller.
I have since gained numerous friends online, but believe that those connections are just as strong in real life.
This column was originally published by Katie Pratt on her blog, Illinois Farm Girl. She is a Farm Bureau member in Illinois.