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Michigan Ag Council hopes to reach non-aggies through blog

 

By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
Michigan Correspondent

LANSING, Mich. — A new blog is serving up a “fresh” perspective on Michigan agriculture.

The Farm Fresh Food blog, a product of the Michigan Ag Council, debuted this spring on MLive.com and from now through at least August, dozens of farmers from across Michigan are taking turns shedding light on their personal lives, farming practices and food and other agricultural commodities raised in the state.

The blog may be found online at http://blog.mlive.com/freshfood
Carla Wardin is a fifth-generation dairy farmer, who, with her husband, Kris, purchased her family’s centennial farm near St. Johns in 2007. Before moving back to the farm, the couple both worked in the corporate world. Now, they operate about 750 acres of crop and pasture land, milking 300 dairy cows seasonally. Wardin regularly writes about life on the farm in her blog.
“My main goal is to educate people about farming,” Wardin said. “Before I moved back, I never really thought about how people have little or no connection to a farm. I made lots of friends here who had never once even been on a farm. I love giving them farm tours, and it’s fun to be able to do that at a more involved and larger level through the blog.

“Every day something different is happening on the farm. It’s really about identifying subjects people don’t necessarily know about – the difference between a cow and a heifer, what a paddock is, how a corn planter works, how cows usually calve all on their own – and explaining them in a concise and entertaining way.

“I have a lot of friends who never knew a farmer. Now that they know one, they look at dairy and agriculture a little differently,” Wardin said. Her readers “feel like they know me, and in turn know about farming because they read about our lives and our livelihood.”

She said the blog is gaining momentum. To date, her postings have been viewed worldwide, by people in the continent of Africa and in Poland, Germany, Singapore, Latvia, Ireland, Croatia and other countries.
“It’s nice to see how many people from how many different countries are reading it,” she said.

As a fourth-generation farmer, Jeff Vander Werff shares stories from his family’s 2,000-acre cash crop and fruit operation through his blog. He often cooks up his entries while working on the farm.

“My blog ideas come to me at strange times,” he said, “like when I’m out in the orchard trimming trees or spraying in the middle of the night.”

Like Wardin, Vander Werff said he embraced blogging as a way to tell the story of agriculture. To date, his entries have included a look at eating locally grown foods, family farms and green jobs and pesticide usage and misconceptions.
“This blog is a great opportunity for people all over Michigan to learn directly from a farmer about where their food comes from,” said Deb Schmucker, manager of the Michigan Farm Bureau Promotion and Education Department and a Farm Bureau representative on the Michigan Ag Council.

“Not everyone has the chance to live on a farm, or even visit a farm, so ‘Farm Fresh Food’ will bring the farm to them. Plus, it provides a unique outlet for Michigan farmers to connect with consumers and describe, in their own words, how they too care about safe food, the environment, their animals and Michigan’s future,” she added.

6/2/2011