Friday, February 11, 2011

Iowa Farmer Today Article

Here is an article about CommonGround that appeared in Iowa Farmer Today this week.  Thanks Tim!

Farm Wives Share Experiences

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 1:04 PM CST

Jill Vander Veen, a farmer from Hartley, talks to customers at a Hy-Vee store in West Des Moines as part of a promotion. IFT photo by Gene Lucht  

Three Iowa farm wives officially kicked off their effort to talk to consumers.

The kickoff event was held at a HyVee grocery store in Des Moines on Feb. 5.
Sara Ross of Minden, Jill Vander Veen of Hartley and Suzanne Shirbroun of Farmersburg say the Common Ground program is way they can share their experiences about farm life and modern production agriculture directly with consumers.

Common Ground is an effort by the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn, the National Corn Growers Association, and the United Soybean Board to spearhead a grassroots campaign to showcase the common values and expectations between farmers and consumers.

Iowa is one of five states to participate in the program. The other states include South Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana and Kentucky.

Even though she grew up in a small community, Ross concedes she did not know the details of production agriculture.


However, after marrying farmer Kevin Ross (see story page 3), she has learned a lot about agriculture in the past five years.

Sara Ross says they are trying to put a face on modern production agriculture and connect with consumers.

“We eat the same food consumers eat,” she says.

With the recent blizzard across the Midwest, Shirbroun notes the media coverage showing people stocking up and having snow days off of work.

However, she adds most livestock farmers were getting prepared for the blizzard by taking care of their livestock.

“There is never a snow day for a farmer,” Ross says.

With a recent Oprah television show talking about beef production, Vander Veen says she would invite the talk show host to visit their farm to watch how they raise beef.

Vander Veen has a 9-year old son. She farms with her husband, Roger. They raise beef cattle, grow mostly corn and a seed dealer.

The couple is the second generation on the same farm, and the fourth generation of farmers in the family. She also is a grain buyer at the Valero Renewable Fuels ethanol plant.

Ross and her husband have a son who was born in this past March. They have a cow-calf operation, grow corn, soybeans and some hay.

Ross works as the marketing manager for The Home Agency, an independent insurance agency owned by her father that specializes in crop insurance.

Shirbroun and her husband, Joe, have three sons: 12, 10 and 6. She is the sixth generation of her family to live and work her home farm.

They grow corn and soybeans and have a seed dealership. She worked an agronomist before farming.

Shirbroun said the group met to brainstorm ideas of what they could do in their areas. Some of the ideas include talking with various groups about agriculture.

Not all the efforts will be in person. Each has a blog to share their experiences.

Before getting involved, Ross said she rarely read a blog. Now, she is reading other blogs as well writing on her own.

She says reading the other blogs is interesting to get a prospective on issues.

The blogs can be found at:


=Vander Veen: and


In addition, the group will be posting videos on You Tube.

The main web site for the group is at:

Shirbroun notes the overall effort is to reconnect with consumers about where their food comes from.

By 1950, she says 75 percent of the world’s population lived in rural areas. By 2050, 75 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

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