CommonGround is a volunteer-based national organization, using women farmers to communicate how food is produced and common agricultural practices to consumers.
The organization is celebrating its 10th year, and the Michigan chapter has been around for five years ago. Carla Schultz of Eight Plates Farms in Mayville takes great pride in her role as a volunteer.
“The mission of CommonGround is connecting with consumers, so we are there to answer questions that any consumer may have about food, farming facts, [or] myth busting of what they hear on social media and what’s actually true,” she said. “This is on our time because we want to show what we do on our farm, we care, and we want to answer the questions consumers have because they are so far away from farms.”
Those questions range from biotechnology in seeds, organic vs. conventional, and livestock production practices.
“CommonGround is very inclusive, so it’s all sorts of farmers that do all sorts of things: organic, conventional, grazed operation with cattle or feedlot operation of cattle,” said Schultz. “We try to cover all kinds of agriculture to make the decisions/buying habits off of actually talking to a farmer.”
Schultz added that most of the people asking questions are women and moms, with whom the CommonGround volunteers relate.
“They are the ones that are normally in the grocery aisle buying food, the one at home taking care of the kids feeling like, ‘Am I feeding my children right? If I feed them this, will something happen?’” she said. “If we can connect them to a woman farmer, they feel more comfortable to ask the questions.”
Shultz says specialty crop producers in Michigan’s CommonGround chapter are underrepresented, but she encourages all women producers who are interested to reach out to Claire White of the Michigan Corn Growers Association.