Dietitians on a farm tour

How Working with Farmers Helps Us as Dietitians (and vice versa)

Today, with more people farther from the farm, it makes sense why the health and wellness conversation just keeps getting bigger. People are hungry for more information, not just about the nutrition or cooking details of food choices, but also from the farm perspective.

I’ve shared how my family ties to agriculture helped shape my thinking growing up in addition to my formal training as a dietitian. When we think of farmers and what they mean to our history, our health, and our food supply, it seems obvious why working together from farm to table makes sense.

Our jobs as dietitians are to listen, first and foremost, and help people make more informed choices that fit within their personal belief system about food. How can we honor that while we help people tweak choices to meet personal health goals? How can we help ensure that whatever is guiding their choices is informed by the latest science?  That’s where farmers come in when questions turn to agriculture.

We dietitians have much in common with farmers and agriculture experts. Like food and nutrition, agriculture is science-based. Like dietitians, farmers are often explaining what they do and why they do it.

We often talk about working in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team. Because of today’s food and nutrition conversation, we now also need an agriculture team, regardless of the setting in which we work. If our patients and clients are wondering about farming techniques, the best expert to share that information is a farmer. If we get questions about soil health, crops, animal welfare? We can loop in a soil scientist, a veterinarian…you get the gist. This is exactly why I wanted to work for farmers myself – I saw the value of this relationship as I got more and more questions from our customers in store and online that touched upon agriculture, even beyond my family’s ties to the farm.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to answer people’s questions ourselves. It can feel like a monumental task, especially if it’s outside our wheelhouse. Of course, we need a basic, solid understanding of the big picture, but just like we may partner with a cardiologist, pharmacist, or physical therapist, we can partner with farmers. Once you begin connecting with farmers, the trust you have in them and in the advances in agriculture that they know best will grow and also help you share deeper knowledge with your audiences.

Information overload is everywhere. Instead of letting that consume our audiences and/or ourselves, we can work together to achieve a deeper, better understanding and conversation. Where to begin? Illinois Farm Families is a great place to connect with beef, corn, dairy, soybean, and pork farmers for starters. It’s one of the reasons I’m proud to partner with them myself. Our food supply in America is one of the safest and most abundant. It’s our job to help people feel good about their food choices, literally from farm to table, and it’s going to take all of us to get this right for the future of people and planet.  Working together and helping people make informed choices will help us achieve more. Please reach out to me directly if you wish, too. I’m happy to discuss this and any individual questions you have.

Kim Kirchherr

Kim Kirchherr, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, FAND, ACSM-CPT

About Kim

I’m a Dietitian with expertise in agriculture, food, health, and people.

Learn More