If you’re a fan of the South Dakota soybean checkoff’s Hungry for Truth initiative, you’ve likely seen an episode of Across the Table, a video series bringing the heart of the initiative to life by taking consumers behind the scenes of South Dakota farms to learn how food is grown and raised on today’s farms.
Melissa Johnson is a business owner and mother of four who hosted the series and talked with farmers about everything from turkeys, ham and cheese to safe pesticide use and sustainability. For Melissa, growing up in a rural community and starting a cupcake business didn’t translate directly to knowing where her food comes from. However, the conversations she’s had through Hungry for Truth have helped her feel more comfortable about making food choices and confident about sharing what she’s learned with others.
“I got a backstage pass to a lot of great information I’ve shared with others in the cupcake kitchen and during conversations with friends,” said Melissa. “Being more informed has helped me feel less fear about my food. Unfortunately, there are many people who want to be afraid.”
We asked Melissa to share some of her experiences with us as well as why she appreciates Hungry for Truth’s unique approach.
Q: Why did you get involved with Hungry for Truth?
I was asked to host Across the Table after the initiative launched. Before I said yes, I wanted to learn more about Hungry for Truth and its goals. What impressed me most is that it’s about having conversations and supporting choice. It doesn’t encourage people to be inflammatory or tell them what they should do. It’s inclusive and encourages people to learn, ask questions and explore the truth behind farming with real farmers. I liked the idea of being a part of something that empowers people to make food decisions for their families based on truth and not fear.
Q: What was your most memorable experience?
Every video shoot was memorable in its own way, but I loved vising the dairy farms. As the owner of Oh My Cupcakes!, I use A LOT of butter and seeing just how well cows are treated in South Dakota was amazing. Some even lay down on waterbeds! Taking good care of animals was at the forefront of those visits. I can’t speak for every farmer but I know South Dakota farmers pay close attention to their animals.
Q: How has being involved with Hungry for Truth changed your food shopping habits?
The most important thing I’ve learned is how to read food labels. I have a better understanding of what to look for and what’s just marketing. For example, the term “natural” doesn’t mean the product meets any specific standards; it’s just marketing. I also know that “organic” identifies the farm practices used to grow and raise food. It doesn’t mean it’s more nutritious or safer, but it does give me more choices at the grocery store. I’ve learned reading the Nutrition Facts label on the back is the best way to figure out what’s in my food and how healthy it is for me.
Q: What’s one thing you wished more South Dakotans knew about their food?
Don’t be afraid of GMOs. I’ve learned that biotechnology has been around for many years and has a strong safety record. People get really upset about GMOs in their food, but I don’t think most of them even know what a GMO is. I love pointing people to hungryfortruthsd.com and encouraging them to use it as a resource and to ask a farmer if they have concerns.
If you’re a grower who would like to get involved with Hungry for Truth and be a proactive part of the food and farming conversation in South Dakota, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post is brought to you by the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.