Educating consumers on the benefits of beef in their diet and telling the beef story whenever possible is part of the Wisconsin Beef Council’s mission. Our most exciting events we put on pertaining to consumer education are called Farm to Fork tours. These tours stretch all across the state and involve a variety of producers related to the beef industry including cow/calf, stocker/backgrounders, feedyards, processing plants and dairy operations. We do our research to ensure the attendees are always influential in their field, so they are more likely to relay the beef story to their peers.
On March 16th, 2017, we executed a Farm to Fork tour in the Oshkosh Area for 27 Family and Consumer Science teachers from all parts of the state. Their annual conference had just concluded and it was a perfect time to take these influential teachers from farm to fork on an educational field trip.
Before we start the tours, we administer pre-tour survey to understand our audience’s knowledge and understanding of the beef industry and its producers. Based on the pre-tour survey, the participants had very little, if any, agricultural experience or knowledge but were very eager to learn. When ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 (1= less knowledgeable, 5= more knowledgeable) of the beef industry, 68% of the participants described themselves as being not knowledgeable at all or very little (1,2,3.) When asked, “What are (if any) your concerns pertaining to raising beef and the beef products you buy?” many participants listed hormones and antibiotics used during animal care, nutritional differences between grass-fed vs. grain fed beef, and the quality of meat available for the consumer in chain grocery stores.
Our first stop, Milk Source Dairy in Rosendale, did not come short when asked to provide an engaging and informative experience. Participants were able to walk through the freestall barns, observe the parlor and get an inside look of the day-to-day operations of a large scale dairy. One participant said, “It was great to be able to get a sense of what a day in the life of a dairy cow is… pretty luxurious!”
The second stop of the day was at Fox Valley Technical College in their state-of-the-art culinary center where Chef Zino, NCBA Executive Chef, held a cooking demonstration for the teachers. He prepared easy and quick recipes using beef to show how simple implementing these recipes in their homes and classrooms could be. Chef Zino also lectured the attendees in a PowerPoint presentation on “Beef 101.” Some of his topics included proper cooking methods, food safety, and culinary tips and tricks resulting in the best tasting beef possible.
The final stop of the day was with Wishing Well Simmentals in Hortonville where Luanne Ujazdowski showed the group what a cow/calf operation looked like and explained the daily practices in how she cares for her cows and their calves. LuAnne also addressed the attendees concerns about antibiotic use and explained how medicines are used on a conventional farm.
There is no rest for the wicked on our tours as the entire day is packed with meaningful and relevant information for attendees to take home. During the bus rides from one stop to the next, various speakers have an open panel session discussing different topics in the beef industry and addressing participants concerns. Sarah Agena, Registered Dietitian with the Wisconsin Beef Council spoke about nutritional benefits of beef and Jeffery Swenson with the University of Wisconsin-Madison discussed the beef lifecycle and current statistics related to the beef industry.
After the tours conclude, we administer a post-tour survey to measure the change in attendees’ perception and attitudes about the beef industry. The post-survey reported that there was 100% increase in participants’ level of knowledge and comfortableness with the beef industry and its producers (3,4,5.) When asked, “How would you describe your feelings towards beef producers?” in the post-survey, many teachers showed a new appreciation for the hard work and dedication it takes to be a farmer and realize farming is more than profit. Our hard-working farmers are passionate about their animals and what they are able to put on the table for consumers.
Not only have we seeded inspiration and knowledge among teachers, but they are who we trust to teach our children. The Family and Consumer Science teachers who participated in the tour plan to take the information gathered during their time with us and implement it in their classrooms immediately. These tours are so influential to attendees and are extremely important in practicing the transparency between the consumer and producer that we preach. The Wisconsin Beef Council allocates $5,000 a year to be put towards Farm to Fork tours. Having many years of successful tours under our belt, requests for future tours have been flooding in. We are excited for another year of promoting the beef industry through consumer education. If you have any questions about the Farm to Fork program through the Wisconsin Beef Council, please reach out to Jayde Farbo, Communications Coordinator and Director of Online Marketing with the Wisconsin Beef Council at 608-833-9944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.