First off, I would like to say that I totally loved the idea and the thoughts that came out of last night’s #foodchat conversation. I was so pumped to hear from consumers about their thoughts on food and definitely wasn’t disappointed. They all gave extremely rational beliefs and were easy to talk to. They came right out and said they’re willing to listen to all sides of issues to learn the most about their food. I can’t say how exciting it was to see how open-minded they all were.
I also think it was a great opportunity to for the ag community to listen to consumers, versus jumping to conclusions about what they know and think. While some strong opinions snuck in here and there, I thought everyone did a really good job of just taking in as much information as possible. It was a unique experience and a really good one at that. I definitely think that #foodchat should consider heavier consumer input like this in the future.
My only frustration with the format was how hard it was to get clarification on what the consumers meant. Because the focus was so heavy on listening, it felt like no one could say anything unless the consumer tweeted it. At one point I needed clarification about what a consumer meant by something, but I was told to keep it to myself–that the #agchat group would discuss it next week. I felt like the term needed valid clarification from the consumer who said it, but was instead was told to sit back and be quiet. I really try not to get offended at silly stuff like that, but it just seemed very counter-intuitive to me.
Now, I know what you’re thinking–“Amanda, if you think there’s a problem, what the heck should we do to fix it?” Well, I don’t know that I have all the answers, but I think I have a cool idea. I would really like to invite consumers back and have only one or two big questions (that probably has multiple parts) and create a real dialogue for the whole conversation (I think one of the problems this week is that there were just too many questions to get through). Like for instance, “What is your opinion on subsidies?”. Then for the conversation, the consumers would give their opinions and the #agchat group could ask clarifying questions (i.e. does it depend on who gets subsidies?, what do you think subsidies are?, why do you have ___ opinion on subsidies?). Then, the moderator would be more in charge of making sure people are asking questions, not stating their out-right opinions and getting defensive.
I know, it may not work. But I really would like to see a more back-and-forth conversation rather than sit-and-listen. Excited to see what happens!