Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Breath of City Air

Oh I am a city girl at heart.

I have accepted, enjoyed, and (as of today) love my life as a country mouse, but plunk me down in the heart of Chicago, and I suddenly become Emily, the city girl.

Give me your traffic! Give me the El! Give me the SHOPPING!!!

I'll take it.

However, I was in the city for another event as a part of the Illinois Farm Families campaign, so it wasn't all Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie, and Nordstrom shoes...even though there was A LOT of that!!

Anyway, on Thursday, I rolled out of my posh, downtown hotel room, coffee in hand and headed to the Daley Plaza Farmer's Market (for you movie's the plaza where The Blues Brothers ended). I met up with my other farmer allies and was briefed on what to do.

"Emily, go out in the market, pass out some literature, and talk to some folks."

Easy enough.

Or so I thought.

I started my endeavor to educate the business class of Chicago with, "Would you like to win free groceries for a year?"

I was met with a lot of ignoring, texting, and looks of, "Are you a scam artist?"


Plan B: Change my pitch to start with, "Interested in recipes?" (thank you Pork Producers for the free cookbooks) or "Are you interested in learning more about the farmers in your state?"

Answer to most questions: "No..."


However, I did have a few folks who were really friendly, and once again, were shocked to hear that I was a farmer's wife. Honestly's the most bizarre compliment. Yes, I was wearing a cute dress (a casual one, but a dress that was trendy-ish nonetheless), and yes, I do speak in complete sentences, but I WILL NOT show up to an event in the plaza in the heart of the Loop in Chicago wearing bib overalls or an embroidered, collared sweatshirt (sorry, Grandma Mary).

Maybe if I would have, they would have trusted me more?


NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'll leave that outfit to the goofy looking grower from Michigan who had awesome peaches by the bushel.

Anyway, again, what I have learned from this opportunity is this was not the best way to connect with consumers.

I was comfortable there, and that made me strange in the eyes of the city folks. From the body language and distrustful and wary glances, these folks wanted me to probably be in muddy boots and coveralls. When I was happy to talk and explain our operation, they didn't have time to listen. These folks wanted to get their corn-syrupless truffles (note the eye rolling), gladiolas, and Amish made bread and be on their way. They weren't interested in talking to this Citified Emily...the one in fabulous shoes and big sunglasses...I was obviously pretending to be a farm wife. The other farm wives, the ones in the Amish tent, were the ones that they were questioning, not me. They had little bonnets. I had Ann Taylor.


So, I guess I was the one who was not necessarily discriminated against, but not trusted. I am just a frustrated city-girl-wannabe who desperately wants good PR for my husband's line of work. I'm not a scam artist who wants your social security number or your email address to send you some spam messages by the thousands!

This will not phaze me, however. I will press on! I will continue my pursuit to break through the stereotypical persona that precedes me. I will not wear a bonnet, however, will maybe not work so hard to fit in with the crowd in an event like this. I am a city-lover, but a country-liver, so I need to personify a balance in my style for times such as these.

But don't bonnets are in my future.


  1. I bet that was a little uncomfortable. But keep in mind, even though they didn't want to stop and engage, maybe just seeing you out there and hearing the word farm, may have done some good! Keep up the good work!!

  2. It's an unfortunate stereotype in the agriculture world that we're all expected to be wearing overalls and chewing on a shaft of wheat at all times. I think part of the whole "get more connected to your food" movement means, to consumers, staying away from anyone who looks somewhat corporate when looking for food info. Which, I suppose, is a step in the right direction at least! Keep up the great work.

  3. This is awesome. Having grown up on a farm (northern NH) and now living in a city, I fight these stereotypes all of the time! Yes, I led cows in 4-H...Yes, I rode horses. Yes, I went hunting with my Dad. And yes, I can still have a corporate job and be smart too... the things people say never cease to amaze me! Great post!