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Event seeks to further understanding between farmers, consumers

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | 6:40 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Because the source of food is becoming more critical to consumers, a collection of farmers, ranchers, business owners and scientists will meet Thursday to continue the conversation.

An event called "Food Dialogues: Finding Common Ground," seeks to answer growing concerns about how food in Missouri is grown and raised.

The event, sponsored by Missouri Farmers Care and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, will be held from 2 to 5:15 p.m. Thursday at the Reynolds Journalism Institute on South Ninth Street. Registration begins at 1 p.m.

Food Dialogues is a series of nationwide discussions about food and its sources — antibiotics, biotechnology, animal welfare, organic and conventional food production, and healthy food choices. This is the first time it has been held in Missouri.

Thursday's guest speakers include farmers, restaurant owners, dieticians, geneticists and professors. Local radio host Tom Bradley will moderate the panels.

The first panel, called "Animal Welfare: Beyond the Hype," will start at 2 p.m. and will introduce the audience to how animals are treated on the farm. The panel seeks to address questions such as why one farmer might choose to raise animals in a pen indoors or outside on a pasture and how those decisions affect their farming practices.

Mark Mahnken, owner of Missouri Legacy Beef, will be on the animal welfare panel. Mahnken, a third-generation farmer from Salisbury, has been farming for 30 years. He said he's been involved with the local food movement since the 1990s, but he seen interest about it from the general public rise considerably during the past couple years.

"The consumer today is very well-educated," he said. "They want to know where their food comes from and that it comes from a high-quality and safe local source."

The second panel, called "Hi-tech or Low-tech: Can't we all just get along?," begins at 3:45 p.m. and will focus on the need of organic and conventional agriculture to work together to meet the community's food demand. Panelists will discuss genetically modified food, biotechnology and industry best practices.

Dan Kleinsorge, the executive director of Missouri Farmers Care, has noticed that farmers and the agricultural industry have not been successfully communicating with the people they feed. As more people move to cities to raise their families, the disconnect between farmers and the public has grown, he said.

"We are now five generations removed from the farm," Kleinsorge said. "So there are a lot of misconceptions about how food is made today and misconceptions about farming.

"I want people to understand that there is more than one way to feed the population," he said.

Registration for the event is now closed. Seating for day-of attendees cannot be guaranteed, but the event will be live-streamed from Missouri Farmers Care website at mofarmerscare.com, and overflow seating will be available.


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