Greeley’s Ann Cross works to connect farmers with urban population | TheFencePost.com

Greeley’s Ann Cross works to connect farmers with urban population

Bridgett Weaver

Cross grew up in southern California, far from farms and food production. If she was hungry, she put dinner in her shopping cart.

Then she got married and moved to Wyoming to raise her kids and some sheep. That's where she started learning about agriculture.

Now she knows there's a lot more behind getting food on the shelf, and she's trying to teach others who were once like her how food is produced.

Cross found that role eight years ago, when she joined Colorado Corn in Greeley as the executive assistant. Four years ago, she started working with CommonGround, a grassroots movement in agriculture set up to educate consumers about where their food comes from, and how it's made.

The organization connects the farmers and ranchers with consumers by hosting events that put them in the same room and allowing them to ask questions. Cross helps plan a lot of the events in Colorado.

"There's nothing off the table as far as discussion," she said. "We talk about GMOs or biotechnology, precision ag versus natural and organic, hormone use and pesticides."

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Part of the problem is that people are so far removed from the farm life, so they don't understand it.

"Consumers are three to four generations off the farm so they don't really understand that it doesn't just come off a grocery shelf," she said. "So who better to ask than the people who are actually producing it?"

CommonGround was started because of all the misinformation about food out there, she said.

Thanks to the great amount of misinformation, people are afraid of what's happening to their food before it hits the shelf. She said often consumers don't understand how some things, such as genetically modified organisms, work or why they're necessary to feed the growing population.

Cross, along with CommonGround, pushes the message 'Don't fear your food.'

"We all see the headlines," she said. "It's all sort of fear-based."

Less than 2 percent of the U.S. population grows food for the other 98 percent.

Because of the dwindling number of farmers, there's a disconnect between those two groups, she said. She is working to bridge that gap.

"The public is definitely interested in what farming is about, but the picture they have of farming has not progressed with the information," she said. "They don't think technology or precision."

But that's often what agriculture is now.

If people don't understand where their food comes from, it's hard to form educated opinions and make decisions regarding food.

"Making choices about your food is really an emotional decision," she said. It always will be, but Cross is trying to make the decision process easier by giving people information.

Mary Kraft, a Fort Morgan dairy farmer who works with Cross at CommonGround, said she's thankful for Cross's dedication to connecting the farm to urban areas.

"She gives me the opportunity to meet people I would not meet because I live in Fort Morgan, which is where most of the food is grown," Kraft said. "Most of the food is consumed in more populated areas like Denver."

Through dinners and events with CommonGround, Cross helps to connect farmers and ranchers with the public. She said the goal is to just inform people and let them make decisions from there.

"If somebody can walk away from the table and say, 'I didn't know that,' that's a win for ag," she said. ❖

CommonGround

For more information on CommonGround or to get involved, visit http://www.findourcommonground.com.