10.24.16 / ADMIN
Celebrating Six Years of CommonGround
Sara Ross and her family raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and cattle on their western Iowa farm.
Six years ago this month, a friend called and asked if I would participate in a new program called CommonGround to help connect farm women with consumers. The goal was to engage in conversations about the food we grow and how we produce it.
I was hesitant at first. I grew up in town. I’d only been married to a farmer and living on our farm for about three years at that point. I was hardly a farming expert. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I had learned on the farm those first few years and how that might be interesting to other moms who don’t have regular access to a farm or a farmer.
I also understood where moms like me were coming from when it comes to grocery shopping. We are inundated with food labels, food marketing and opinions about what we should be feeding our families. CommonGround seemed like a great opportunity to share my experience on the farm with other moms. It was also a great opportunity for me to learn from other farmers who raise different crops and animals than my family does.
Raising the next generation of farmers
Farming isn’t easy. We face constant uncertainty when it comes to the weather and market prices, but our passion for caring for the land and animals unwavers and is passed down from generation to generation.
Our family has grown since I first became a CommonGround volunteer six years ago. My husband and I are raising four boys on our farm; the oldest is six, middle son is three, and the twins are one. Therefore, our boys are a big reason I continue to volunteer with CommonGround and think it’s so important to open our doors to those who want to learn more about farming. We hope that someday our boys will be the seventh generation of our family to farm – should they choose.
In addition, I love watching their personalities shine on the farm. The oldest likes to ride in the tractor with his dad and help take care of the crops. His younger brother loves animals and feeding and caring for our cattle. It’s too early to tell what the twins will enjoy, but it’s clear they love the farm and the outdoors.
The more we engage in conversations through programs like CommonGround, the more others can get to know the farmers who produce their food and feel more informed as they navigate the grocery store aisles.
When CommonGround began, the program included 15 female farmer volunteers from five states. We hosted local events, shared what was going on our farms through social media, participated in media interviews and many of us started blogs to give people a glimpse into life on the farm. (You can find my blog at saras-house.com.) In six years, CommonGround grew to nearly 200 farmer volunteers from 19 states.
CommonGround has grown significantly over the years, but our focus hasn’t changed. We love to have conversations about the food we grow and how we produce it. If you have a food or farming-related question for me or one of the other farmer volunteers, add it to the comments section or ask it on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.
This blog is brought to you by America’s corn farmers and their checkoff.