Young mothers prove powerful force in food safety debate

In our battle to mitigate misinformation about agriculture and food production, we need to pay attention to an important new demographic: the “mommy bloggers” and their readers.

More than four million young, educated, chatty, technology savvy American mothers are actively blogging about parenting or turn to blogs and other social media platforms for advice.

This group is also 64 percent more likely to donate to an environmental organization and 88 percent more likely to pay more for products and services that are perceived to be eco-friendly, according to Scarborough Research.

Moms who blog have a great deal of power and influence. They have become important marketing partners, spreading the word about ideas, products and services to the millions of other moms who are online.

Moms who blog are also more likely to make other moms feel guilty about their food and parenting choices.

Mommy blogger campaigns can be damaging in the world of agriculture and food production if they incite unnecessary fear in parents by leading them to believe they are harming their families by feeding them genetically modified foods, beef treated with hormones and antibiotics and other conventionally produced food.

There is significant market pressure for parents to fit their buying and consumption decisions neatly under the halo of all that is “natural” and “organic.” It is a shame, though, because there is no evidence to suggest that organically produced food is any safer or healthier than food produced through other production methods.

Mommy bloggers, and parents in general, need to be our target audience.

Too often, agricultural and food production practices are demonized in parenting circles, and there is a great need for education and agricultural advocacy on these topics.

Rural mommy bloggers can be our greatest allies in this. They can ensure that information about agriculture, production methods and food safety is being accurately presented by using a positive voice, being open to respectful dialogue and sharing their stories.

Agricultural organizations and advocacy groups can also benefit from the unique role that mommy bloggers play. They can develop brand ambassadorship programs for rural and, perhaps even more importantly, urban mommy bloggers, providing support and tools so that these individuals can spread awareness about the industry through their blogs.

However, the goal for these ambassadorship programs should not be to get your story in front of a mom who blogs. Rather, the goal should be to have your story become part of hers.

Ambassadorship programs are important pieces in the “agvocacy” puzzle as we work to address some of the image problems that the agricultural industry faces.

We are fortunate to be able to raise our children in a part of the world where food — all food, no matter how it is produced — is plentiful, diverse and safe. Those of us who farm and work in agriculture need to reach out and connect across the plate, using available tools as well our own unique voices to counter some of the misinformation.

Cami Ryan is a research consultant and a professional affiliate in the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. Sarah Schultz is author of the blog nurselovesfarmer.

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