More Iowans understand how the food they'll serve this holiday season is grown and they increasingly trust farmers to do a good job growing it, according to an Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) survey. Ninety-five percent of respondents said they are "very" and "somewhat" knowledgeable about how the food they purchase is produced, up 6 percentage points from last year and 9 points from 2012. The survey also found 81% of people have a positive impression about farming.
The Consumer Pulse survey, conducted by Campaign HQ, polled 353 health-conscious Iowans who make the majority of their household's food purchases. Respondents were queried on a variety of food topics, their familiarity with the Iowa FFP and how that familiarity changes their perceptions about today's farms and food system.
Fifteen percent of respondents said farmers "do things right regardless of financial benefit," up 6 percentage points from last year. Sixty-one percent believe growers "balance doing what's right" with profit, while just 14% think farmers are "driven solely by profit," down 4 points from last year.
These survey results matter to farmers as well as consumers
These results matter to Cristen Clark, a grain and pig farmer near Runnells in central Iowa. Public perception is influenced by many things, she said, including speculation and a lack of information and transparency. Therefore, having conversations with Iowans and answering their questions about what farmers do and believe are important.
"There is a concerted effort by families to work the land and care for the livestock in a way that allows us to provide the next generation — our children — with a farm that is just as productive or more productive than how we found it," said Clark, who volunteers as an Iowa FFP advisory team member. "I take pride in passing on farming for my kids just as my great-grandfather did for me. That's a story I want to share."
Acquainting consumers with farmers who grow their food
Launched in 2011 by the Iowa Soybean Association, the Food & Family Project facilitates greater confidence among food-minded Iowans about how food is grown and acquaints them with the farmers who grow it. Partners include Hy-Vee, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Subway, Midwest Dairy Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association and Casey's General Store, to name a few.
Programs include Join my Journey with Iowa Girl Eats Kristin Porter, in which the popular Des Moines food blogger invites people to follow along as she learns about production agriculture and You on the Farm tours that provide urban residents a chance to experience farm activities. Iowa FFP is also a presenting sponsor of the Iowa Games and a supporter of Live Healthy Iowa.
Survey results indicate the Food & Family Project is having success. People familiar with the Iowa FFP said they are more knowledgeable about farming and have a more favorable impression about production agriculture. They're:
• Ten percent more confident that farmers care for the well-being of their livestock
• Nine percent more confident that farmers protect the environment
• Nine percent more trusting that farmers balance doing what's right with financial considerations
More consumers are paying attention to food labels
More likely to pay attention to food labels and seek details about how food is grown. "What these numbers tell us is that we're influencing the food influencers," said Iowa FFP Coordinator Aaron Putze. "Those involved in the Iowa FFP have a passion for helping Iowans be healthier, happier and more informed about the food they love and the farmers who grow it. Our work is groundbreaking and the results are real, positive and measureable."
Paula Hender of Ankeny agrees. As a mother, food safety is at the top of the list when buying groceries so she values the opportunity to actively engage in conversations about how food is grown. Earlier this fall, Paula was selected as a You on the Farm contest winner and, with her husband Derek and sons Jason and Dylan, joined farmers Kevin, Julie, Jacob and Emily Van Manen of Kellogg for corn harvesting. The tour reaffirmed Paula's opinion that farmers have her best interest in mind when it comes to providing wholesome food.
More consumers say they find new food labels more helpful
"I have concerns just like other moms and sometimes they lead me to question the choices I make," she said. "I want to be confident and purchase food that tastes good and is good for my family. Connecting with the Food and Family Project and Iowa's farmers has been very helpful."
The Iowa FFP also queried Iowans about food labels and advertising claims. Seventy-seven percent of consumers said they find labels helpful, a dramatic increase from 31% a year ago. Food quality matters most when making food purchases (35%), followed by safety (24%) and price (21%). Respondents expressed most satisfaction with food labeled "local" (62%) but definitions of "local" varied greatly. Food labeled "organic" continues to lose favor among consumers with just 25% of those polled saying it's better than food not labeled "organic," down 11 points from 2013.
A detailed report on the survey's findings can be found at www.iowafoodandfamily.com.