Payne now devotes her career to sharing her experiences – and bridging the urban-rural food gap – with others. Her aspirations are to work with food and ag policy and ultimately be a liaison between consumers, producers and legislators.

She has founded the “Food, Think” blog – her antidote to “Food, Inc.” – and has had numerous speaking engagements to share her story with the ag community and consumers. Working with the Texas Beef Council, she’s addressed dieticians and health professionals.

Payne is adamant that agriculture needs to speak up. “People want a face and a story; they want a relationship with farmers,” she says.

She points out that, with 98% of Americans three generations removed from the farm, they don’t have a “real farmer” to turn for answers. So, they do as she did and listen to the “stories” presented in newspapers, books and movies.

“The information being presented by many is still slanted and there’s a lot of work to be done. Smart spokespeople are imperative for the ag industry,” she says.

Her advice to ag advocates reaching out to urban consumers is this: “Display your integrity and be transparent – that is so meaningful.”

She also tells food producers to remind the consumer that you are running a family business, what your values are, and that the product you raise is what you serve to your own family.

Additionally, Payne encourages ag producers to share the facts and science behind their production and management methods – noting that the efficiency and ethics in the beef industry were what ultimately got her attention and changed her beliefs. She concludes, “The exaggerations of Pollan and Kenner may be exposed by their own followers if they entice people like me to learn the truth for themselves.”  ❚❚

Kindra Gordon is a Sturgis, SD-based freelance writer.