Family farms on Delmarva, and across America, have helped build the safest and most affordable food supply in the world. Women play a vital role in running the farm and growing the nation’s food supply. For the past decade, they have been speaking up to tell their story through CommonGround, a national grassroots program designed to connect the women who grow food to the women who buy it.
Born of a partnership between, and funding from, the United Soybean Board and the National Corn Growers Association, CommonGround created a network of 200 women farmers across 20 states to listen to consumer concerns and talk with them about how food and farm products are raised on their own farm. CommonGround members take to the airwaves, blogs, national and local events and social media to provide knowledgeable advocacy and science-backed research. While the program provides a platform for the volunteers to tell their stories, the opinions and statements made by the volunteers are their own. Because of their passion and love for farming, these farm women are anxious to share what really happens on their farms and answer consumers’ questions.
“Being both a farmer and a Registered Dietitian, advocacy was something I had been doing connecting consumers from farm to table, and this opportunity called “CommonGround” provided me with an additional avenue to reach more people and a specific audience of urban and suburban moms,” said Jennifer Schmidt, one of CommonGround’s first volunteers. “CommonGround has made significant inroads in bridging the gap between urban and suburban consumers and the farm women of CommonGround, providing transparent information about food and farming and authentic stories of life on the farm. Beyond my own social media platforms, CommonGround has opened up for me a broader audience and greater accessibility to consumers as well as a network of farm women I can rely on for assistance and support.”
The MidAtlantic chapter of CommonGround began in March of 2012 and is supported through a partnership between the Maryland Soybean Board and the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board. It has reached consumers going to where they shop, play and seek information at food shows, sporting events, community festivals, on-farm tours, speaking engagements, state dietitian meetings, and at the nation’s largest dietetic exposition, the “Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition” at the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Paula Linthicum is a mom, grandmom and farmer raising corn and soybeans in Montgomery county. She says she is frequently asked about sustainability and the environment at CommonGround events. “The soil is our partner and the home of our plants, and healthy plants need healthy soil,” explained Linthicum. “One of the sustainability practices we use is cover crops, which is planting wheat or a radish mix after soybean or corn harvest. This covers the ground to reduce soil erosion during the winter and actually recycles unused nutrients from the soybeans or corn.”
Amidst the pandemic, CommonGround identified consumers’ interest in knowing how to prepare healthy meals at home and created a virtual cooking series. Simple but delicious recipes with familiar ingredients were prepared with chef instructions on safe cooking measures. The series featured open conversations about the meals and a wide array of common food questions surrounding topics such as GMOs, gene editing, pesticides and hormones in meat and milk.
CommonGround’s website and social media outreach is a great place to go for quick food and farming answers that are straight from the farm and backed by science. They also provide a window into the operations of most every type of farm imaginable. While each volunteer brings different experiences and expertise to the table, they share the same goal—to provide the region with answers to their farming and food questions.
Find us online:
- Website: www.FindOurCommonGround.com
- YouTube: www.youtube.com/FindOurCommonGround
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/CommonGroundNow
- Twitter Hashtag: #CGConvo
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/CommonGroundNow
About CommonGround: CommonGround is a grassroots group of women farmers across the nation having conversations about the food they grow. CommonGround farmers volunteer their time to share personal experiences, as well as science and research, to help consumers sort through the myths and misinformation surrounding food. CommonGround was developed by the national checkoffs of the National Corn Growers Association and United Soybean Board and is implemented locally through the Maryland Soybean Board and the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board.
About Maryland Soybean Board: With a value of $173 million to the state’s economy, soybeans are one of Maryland’s top crops. The Maryland Soybean Board works to maximize the profitability of Maryland soybean producers by investing Maryland checkoff funds in research, promotion, and communication projects. Learn more about soybeans in Maryland by visiting www.mdsoy.com.
About Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board: The Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board was established in 1991 to administer the Maryland Grain Checkoff Program. Grain producers in Maryland voted to institute this voluntary checkoff program, which is funded by participating growers donating 0.5% of each Maryland bushel sold. With this funding, the board can fulfill its mission to increase the profitability of Maryland grain production and to improve public understanding of agriculture through promotion, education, and research.