This webinar will cover what it takes to implement educational farm tours like Michigan’s Breakfast on the Farm program. In addition, exit survey results from participants will be presented to show the impact such educational farm tours have on the public. The Michigan State University Extension Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF) program began in 2009 in Clinton County and since then has been held in many counties throughout the state, attracting over 61,000 participants. BOTF gives consumers and farm neighbors a first-hand look at modern food production, and the farm families who work hard to produce a safe, wholesome food supply for Michigan communities and the world.
Consumers want to know that farmers will do the right thing. So they greatly appreciate the opportunity that BOTF provides to tour modern farms. Since farm tours provide transparency, they build trust. BOTF events in Michigan have had a tremendous impact on the public and neighbors attending these events. They learn how farmers are caring for animals, safe guarding food products such as milk, beef and grains, and caring for the environment as they manage their businesses to make a living. Survey results from 2,964 participants attending 18 dairy farm tours in 2010-2012 show BOTF events attract a non-farm audience, with 44% making their first visit to a dairy farm in the past 20 years (first-time visitors) and 21% having made only 1 or 2 prior visits. Most visitors grew up in urban (34%) or rural areas not near farms (28%), while 31 and 39% live in urban and rural areas not near farms, respectively.
The percentage of participants with Positive or Very Positive impressions about four management areas on dairy farms increased from the 60’s to about 95% for ALL respondents. Further, public trust is improved. For first-time visitors, 86% either Agree or Strongly Agree with the statement “As a result of today’s tour, my trust in milk as a safe food has increased”, with 81% of ALL respondents either Agreeing or Strongly Agreeing. To the statement, “As a result of today’s tour, my trust in dairy farmers as a source of information about food production has increased”, 91% of the first-time visitors either Agree or Strongly Agree.
The majority of the public is unfamiliar with modern food production and likely have difficulty sorting through information they receive from various sources about food production methods. Educational farm tours provide the public an opportunity to learn first-hand, ask questions of farmers and other professionals and give feedback about modern food production. Results suggest that the time and money spent on educational farm tours, such as Breakfast on the Farm, are well worth it.
Nancy Thelen, Theodore Ferris
Created by Nancy Thelen