Common Ground, a consumer education promotion
Jill Vander Veen, a farmer from Hartley, Iowa, talks to customers at a Hy-Vee store in West Des Moines as part of Common Ground, a consumer education promotion sponsored by several ag commodity groups. (Iowa Farmer Today photo by Gene Lucht )

Three Iowa farm wives kicked off a statewide campaign this month to talk to consumers about the ag commodities their families produce.

Jill Vander Veen of Hartley, Sara Ross of Minden, 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.

With a recent Oprah television show talking about beef production, Vander Veen says she would invite the talk show host to visit their farm in the Northwest Iowa county of O’Brien 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 in Hartley.

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, 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 this winter’s 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.

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 as an agronomist before farming.

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