Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
By Nancy Allen
Survey: Local residents view farmers favorably
  Local residents have a positive view of farmers, a Wright State University-Lake Campus survey shows.
Students in Greg Homan's agriculture society class developed and administered the survey to explore local perceptions of agriculture.
"The goal was to have students interact with the general public to understand (the public's) perspective of agriculture and how they view it," he said
USDA statistics show that less than 1 percent of all U.S. workers are farmers, so it's important to get a pulse on the public's attitude toward farmers, Homan said.
"Since a smaller number of people are involved in agriculture that means we are going to have to do more to advocate for agriculture," he said. "Otherwise, we will be at the mercy of people who don't understand agriculture who are maybe putting restrictions on agricultural production or sharing inaccurate views of agriculture."
Students visited area restaurants and stores in St. Marys, Celina and Coldwater to discuss agriculture with a random sample of residents.
When residents were asked what they thought of farmers, their replies were varied but positive, the students found. One person replied that farmers are good, hard-working people and another said they work hard to feed the country and help the economy a lot.
When ranking four factors that impact food buying choices, the averages in order of the most to the least responses were nutrition, taste, how it was produced and cost.
One question respondents consistently got wrong was how much of each $1 spent on food in the U.S. goes to the farmer. Most thought it was 40 to 70 cents. Just 16 cents of every food dollar goes to farmers, the American Farm Bureau says.
The survey also explored how respondents thought agriculture had changed during the past 100 years. Common answers included more modernization of technology, larger farms and bigger equipment, all of which are true.
When respondents were asked what they thought of the prospect of a larger share of their food being produced outside the U.S., most viewed this as negative, saying they would question the safety of the food.
Student Alyssa Muhlenkamp, Coldwater, said she learned from survey respondents outside Kroger and BW3s in St. Marys that they thought the importance placed on farming has declined. Most people also don't realize the vast array of steps involved with producing food, she found.
It wasn't a surprise that many respondents in the agricultural-rich, two-county area had a good working knowledge of farming, Homan said. Mercer County consistently ranks first for farm income out of Ohio's 88 counties and Auglaize usually ranks in the top 20.
Homan said he may take his students on the road with the survey to question people in a larger city such as Lima or Dayton.
"I would anticipate some significant differences," he said.
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