With three hundred agricultural commodities grown in Michigan, only California grows a more diverse crop of agricultural products in this country and Michigan’s dairy producers are big players in supplying the local demand of Michigan grown products.
“Our research shows that 63 percent of Michiganders prefer to buy products grown and raised in Michigan but there is an obstacle to finding them,” explains Noelle Nachreiner, Executive Director of the Michigan Agricultural Council (MAC). “This is where the Ag Council can make a difference through our Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT campaign. Our goal is to increase the percentage of people who are buying locally grown food while improving the perception of farming practices.”
Nachreiner has been on the job at the Michigan Ag Council since June and has her work cut out for her. “The mission of the Michigan Ag Council is to build awareness among Michigan consumers about today’s food and agriculture.” Nachreiner continued, “MMPA is one of twenty-two commodity groups and businesses who partner with the council to serve as one unified voice to share the story of farmers and build trust in the agriculture sector, resulting in the purchase of more Michigan-based products.”
Representing MMPA on the council, Animal Care Coordinator Lindsay Green serves as board president. As the goal of the MAC is to connect the producers with consumers, Green explains that this affiliation allows MMPA, “another opportunity to tell our producers stories and grow trust of Michigan’s dairy farmers. We contribute to the council monetarily at a level that allows us to have a voting position on the board and to be an influential contributor to the council’s mission.”
The latest campaign of the MAC is Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT and this is highlighted on the MAC website at michigangrown.org. With a plethora of ag facts, recipes and products grown in Michigan, this website is comprehensive in showing what’s grown, who grows it and brings a trustworthy face to the Michigan farmer. There are several videos of Michigan farmers explaining what they grow and why they grow it, including MMPA Member Ashley Kennedy of Sheridan Dairy who discusses the importance of family on their Thumb area farm.
“Through Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT, consumers have the chance to connect the food they’re consuming to the hands who produced it. In today’s culture, transparency and authenticity is of the utmost importance,” Nachreiner said. “Through our podcast and other opportunities to interact, we tell farmers’ stories and put a face to agriculture, showing that farmers and those who work in agriculture care just as much about the food and products they are producing as those who are consuming it. Our impact is the humanization we provide of the agriculture sector.”
“The ag council creates an additional outlet for our producer stories to be told and with the branding goals we have looking into the near future we hope that the ‘Michigan Grown, Michigan Great’ logo will be recognized by consumers and will encourage them to increase their consumption of dairy and the other commodities,” Green added.
Social media has great influence on consumers, with authorities from all corners of the food sphere touting their beliefs and sometimes spreading food myths. The MAC has been a large part of delivering sound science and practical knowledge about how food is grown.
“Whether it’s through videos, podcasts or photos, our message can be amplified with the right tools. It also provides an opportunity to engage with consumers in a different way,” Nachreiner said. “While having face-to-face conversations is always preferred, social media allows us to answer questions and share stories that consumers may otherwise not hear if they aren’t in places where agriculture is prevalent.”
In 2020 and beyond Nachreiner said, “The Michigan Ag Council’s top priority is to increase our brand recognition among consumers and build trust in Michigan farmers and demand for their products. To this end, we will be taking a grass roots approach to begin conversations in spaces where consumers are and already have a baseline trust in farmers. We will be working with farmers markets throughout the state to bring the Michigan GROWN, Michigan GREAT message to the forefront and share farmer stories with consumers in these venues.”
“The council is an important organization in that it creates a collective voice for Michigan agriculture and the state’s commodities,” Green said. “Creating a trusted brand that benefits Michigan agriculture, as a whole, is a win in my book. I also believe that creating a collective voice shows our consumers that we care, that we want to communicate and create relationships and that their trust is important to us.”
This article was originally published in the November/December 2019 issue of the Milk Messenger. Subscribe »