By Matt Reese
The old saying, “behind every great man there is a great woman,” is not inaccurate. In fact, the saying may be even more applicable for farms because of the myriad of contributions women make to agriculture, from off-farm income to get through the lean years to the daily tasks of driving tractors, keeping the books and feeding farm families.
And, through the CommonGround program sponsored by the United Soybean Board and the National Corn Growers Association, farm women are filling another vital role for agriculture by reaching out to consumers. Because those of the fairer sex make most food purchasing decisions, positive messages from strong farm women are powerful tools for reaching the most important consumers.
“CommonGround is made up of a group of farm women who are starting conversations between the women who grow food and the women who buy it. These women are volunteers who are passionate about agriculture and setting the record straight on the facts about farming and food,” said Jennifer Coleman, with the Ohio Soybean Council that is working with CommonGround Ohio. “Everyone has a connection to food. We talk about it, but not everyone gets a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how food makes it from the farm to our plates. CommonGround was created to bridge the gap between urban consumers and farmers to share the true story of modern agriculture and the food it provides.”
Since last January, the CommonGround program was launched in 11 states with Ohio being among the most recent. Through the program, three ladies are selected in each state to be the face of female agriculture and reach the non-ag demographic through events, speaking egaugments, traditional media, and social media including Facebook, Twitter and You-Tube.
“With more Americans growing up away from farm life, there is a growing lack of knowledge about America’s modern agricultural system which has caused some confusion and distrust among consumers who are concerned about feeding their families safe, healthy food,” Coleman said. “Through CommonGround conversations, the volunteers hope to build back trust in America’s remarkable food system and the people behind it.”
Three mothers involved in very different segements of Ohio agriculture are representing Ohio in the CommonGround program, including Gretchen Mossbarger. Gretchen lives in Ross County with her son, Logan, and husband Steve, but she spends much of her time in Pickaway County where she carries on the R Farm seed production business started by her grandfather.
“I grew up with the business and loved helping out,” she said. “I started working here when I was14. I wasn’t old enough to drive the grain trucks, so I drove the combine.”
After going to college at Ohio State where she majored in horticulture and crop science, Gretchen’s father hired her to work in the family business where she did a little bit of everything including paperwork, sales calls, processing seed, equipment repair, and field work. Since her father retired, Gretchen is now running the soybean and wheat seed production business working with Advanced Genetics Incorporated (AGI).
“Because of all of the traits that are coming to market, we wanted to be a part of the new technology so we became a distributor for LG Seeds as well,” she said.
The business sells seed in a 50-mile radius.
“I really enjoy the retail verses the wholesale side of the business because I get to see the product from start to finish,” Gretchen said. “What we do is very similar to any other soybean and wheat production, but there are a lot of little differences, especially with careful handling of the seed and cleaning of the equipment. Every variety has to be harvested and stored separately.”
This year, Gretchen is growing four wheat varieties and four soybean varieties that are harvested with care and processed, treated and bagged in a facility right on the farm. Through the CommonGround program, she hopes to let consumers know that the food supply in this country is safe and dependable, starting with the seed.
“I produce the seed that goes into the food chain for consumers and the feed for livestock,” she said. “I want to share the message of our food and to let people know that what I am doing is feeding Ohio’s cities and towns with a safe, affordable product.”
Stay turned for more from the ladies of Ohio’s CommonGround program.