An ordinary 6th grade sleepover turned into a defining moment in my life.
I grew up in southwestern Minnesota on a crop farm about 13 miles from the nearest town. On our farm we also raised four steers (beef cattle), for our own family’s use. On one particular morning, my friend Sara (having stayed over the night before) came with me to help feed my family’s cattle. Upon coming out to the barn she asked, “So, those are cows… right?”
I was shocked that my friend, who lived in a rural town where agriculture plays a large role in the community, had never seen a cow in real life. (Please know, I’m not poking fun of Sara or anyone else; I just had no idea she had never been around a cow before. My worldview was pretty limited in scope back then!)
It was in that moment I realized my desire to share my knowledge of agriculture with others. My passion for agricultural literacy was ignited.
Throughout the remainder of my middle school and high school years, I became more active in agriculture organizations like 4-H and FFA. I majored in Agricultural Education in college and participated in agricultural organizations. All of these activities gave me opportunities to connect with others who shared my passion for agriculture and helped me learn how to better communicate with people who didn’t have the same farm experiences as me.
Then, in 2011, I learned about an organization called CommonGround. CommonGround sounded like it was right up my alley: a group of women farmers who volunteered their time to have open, honest dialogues about food and farming.
In my time as a CommonGround volunteer, I have come to appreciate the similarities and differences of the women involved with the program. CommonGround volunteers come from all types of farm backgrounds – large, small, organic, conventional, first generation to sixth generation, grain, livestock, produce… I could go on and on. We all love our farms, and all of us make different choices for different reasons. But we celebrate those differences and learn from each other.
So what does CommonGround actually do, you might ask?
Our goal is to have open and honest conversations about agriculture. Volunteers, like myself, share our personal experiences and knowledge as farmers along with relevant science and research at events like farm dinners and through social media.
Not everyone knows a farmer or grew up on a farm, but many people would like to learn more about how their food is grown and raised. We help you sort through the clutter. With CommonGround you can expect straightforward, sincere answers right from the farmer’s mouth. It’s food and farming, uncomplicated.
So, what are your questions and concerns? What would you like to know about how food is grown and raised here in Minnesota? We would like to hear from you! Visit CommonGroundMinnesota.com or find us on Facebook to meet some of the current volunteers, ask a question, or simply make a comment. We hope you’ll join the conversation!
Kristie Swenson and her husband farm with her parents in southwestern Minnesota. They’re proud to continue the family farm started by Kristie’s grandpa.