This was Farmer Image 101.
As I sat with a group of moms, city moms...moms who were attorneys and PR reps and television producers...I was met with shocked looks when I explained where I lived and what we did.
But you don't look like a farmer!
What do you wear?
Thank goodness! My belt and stacked wedges paid off!!!
Fashion aside, these moms were in this little cafe in Chicago to learn more about people like me, and were absolutely floored that I didn't show up in bib overalls and a goofy straw hat.
This is Farmer Image 101.
What a great opportunity. Along with Deb Moore (a fellow beef and corn and soybean producer's wife), Donna Jeschke (our friend Stephen's mom and a true farm wife...like, drives the combine farm wife!!), and Holly Spangler (my partner in crime on this road trip! Read her blog here...she's amazing), we stood in front of nearly 40 city moms, sat with them in a round table discussion, and listened to them in a comfy, mom and kid-friendly environment. Even though we had to put out fires and preconceived notions that they had gathered from watching movies such as King Corn and Food, Inc., had to explain to them why we use seeds that have been modified to withstand the elements, and laughed as we took compliments about how nice and trendy and fun we were, these moms were here to learn. They were hungry for information on the producers who help produce their food and fuel. They had legitimate concerns about what they purchased as groceries because they didn't have freezers full of beef and pork and sweetcorn. How could they? One woman commented that her groceries were delivered for the simple fact that she couldn't carry them up the three flights of steps, all the while toting her young son.
I never thought of that.
And I thought a detached garage was inconvenient.
Regardless of how we tote our groceries, where we raise our kids, and whether we hop into a taxi cab or a tractor cab to head to work, we all were hoping for the same thing that night: to understand each other. As moms, our language was the same, but after that night, I left with the perspective that our lives, although seemingly different, are intertwined. I, along with the three other ladies there that night, hope that when they think of grain farmers or beef producers or American/Illinois agriculture they see my face instead of what they see online or on television.
My hope is that we're not reinforcing the stereotype they already have formed, just as my stereotype of city moms who weren't going to hear what I had to say, already had opinions, and didn't want anything to do with me came crashing down that night. Now, there were moments when comments were made and questions were asked that were way off base, but my hope is that we answered them in a way that didn't make them feel ignorant or silly. My hope is that we were able to find common ground and explain why we do what we do.
My hope is that we were able to convey that what we do is all for the good of the land, as well as for the ability to send our kids to college.
My hope is that we were good ambassadors of agriculture to these fine women.
Ambassadors in great shoes!