In celebration of National FFA Week, the Rushford-Peterson FFA chapter hosted Michelle Miller on February 27 in the high school auditorium. Miller, also known as the Farm Babe, is an internationally and nationally known speaker and columnist who is passionate about educating consumers about how their food is produced. Members of the public attended the presentation along with area FFA chapters and Rushford-Peterson high school students.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there.” Miller explained. Miller, who grew up in Oshkosh, Wis., was first introduced to the idea of going into agriculture when every aptitude test she took in high school indicated a propensity for that field. She ignored the test results though and, instead headed to Los Angeles, majored in fashion, and ended up working for Gucci on Rodeo Drive. Then, she met a farmer from Iowa named Doug while he was on vacation, and the rest was history. The couple now farms about 2,000 acres and raises beef cattle and sheep on their farm in Monona, Iowa. “I’ve literally gone from Rodeo to the rodeo,” she laughed.
Before meeting Doug and moving to the farm, Miller believed many of the rumors about how food is produced and was influenced by films such as Food, Inc. “I was so scared of the things you hear,” she explained. “However, we can change our minds upon further evidence, right?” When she moved to Iowa and began learning more about agriculture, she realized that many of her beliefs weren’t true. About five years ago, she decided to start a blog to help dispel some of the myths out there and theFarmBabe.com was born. “Over time, it has grown to over 130,000 followers, reaching about three million people a month,” she said. “This just goes to show the power of advocating.”
“Social media is the number one way that people are getting their information these days,” Miller said, adding that many people have questions about GMOs, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, organic food, etc., and they frequently turn to social media for the answers, neglecting to fact check the information they read. Miller encouraged the students at the presentation to utilize critical thinking and pay attention to their sources. She pointed out that a lot of misinformation comes from food companies who are selling their products as organic, non-GMO, vegan, etc., and that the people speaking out against the farming industry are often far removed from it. “Talk to farmers about farming because they’ll tell you the real truth,” she said. “Farmers eat what they grow.”
Miller’s first experience with the true force of social media came after she wrote and published a post about a conversation she had with her husband regarding chemicals used on crops. “It reached 12 million people,” she said. “That shows the power of social media whether creating your own content or sharing someone else’s.”
Miller said that she loves speaking to high schoolers as they’re an age group that is usually well connected online. “You guys as students are in this space all the time. You have all these different ways that you can be involved,” she explained. “You just have to find what works best for you.” She gave a variety of tips and tools for students interested in starting their own platform so that they can also share their experiences in agriculture. “We can have a real powerful positive impression on farming,” she said. “We have an amazing ability nowadays through technology to build these relationships and trust.”
“Hopefully this inspired you to speak up because it’s important,” Miller said. “It only takes one person. You can be that person, and you can be the voice.”