Words have power. The descriptions that we apply to people color the lens through which we view those folks.
I guess that’s why I hate the word consumer to describe the people who walk into a store to buy groceries for their families. Consumer is a one-way word. It describes someone who, well, consumes. In other words: uses up, depletes.
The word producer is nearly as one dimensional, but not as negative. When used together, producer and consumer seem to describe good and bad. After all, one side grows and creates something, and the other side simply uses it up.
Let’s rethink the language.
The ag side is easy. I prefer to talk about farmers and ranchers rather than producers. Farming and ranching describe an inherent relationship with the land, and the animals they raise.
On the other side of the equation, how about customer? The word customer also describes a relationship. In this case it is a relationship with the retailer, the food company, and ultimately with the farmer and rancher.
Which brings me to another word I’d like to see used more often: partners.
Partners have a responsibility to each other. In this case farmers and ranchers growing organic crops and livestock are fulfilling a responsibility to provide their customers with high quality, safe, nutritious food. Likewise, the customers shopping decisions are the voices that direct the types of food that those farmers grow.
The more that we start acting like partners, rather than producers and consumers, the more we will truly begin to rebuild a healthy food system. Whatya say, partner?