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Rowe helps farmers spread their message

Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Washington Association of Wheat Growers Kara Rowe is working on the Washington Grown project to build the public's awareness of the producers who grow their food. Farmers need to become "real" to consumers, Rowe says.

SPOKANE — Kara Rowe is helping consumers connect the food they eat with the farmers who grow it.

Research shows people love supporting local farmers, and enjoy the relationship they develop at farmers’ markets, said Rowe, outreach and affairs director with the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.

“So now we just have to explain to them that every farmer in Washington is local,” she said. “Building that reputation, friendship and partnership is what we’re trying to do.”

She also wants more consumers to see farmers as “real.”

“We have this aura around us as we are the big production agriculture people, we’re bots, we’re not people,” she said. “We’ve got to speak the same language as the suburban populace and we’ve got to become real to them.”

With a Washington State Potato Commission crew, led by director of marketing and industry affairs Ryan Holterhoff, Rowe oversees the development of the second season of “Washington Grown.” The television show was developed by the Washington Farmers and Ranchers Coalition, made up of farm groups around the state. Roughly 500,000 viewers watched the 13 original 22-minute episodes, which are currently rerunning.

The group envisions “Washington Grown” as a brand representing commodities in suburban areas and grocery stores, on the level of other Washington brands like Boeing or the Seattle Seahawks.

Rowe says ag needs to grab non-traditional methods to teach people whenever it can.

“People get information about food from their friends and family, that’s the first place they go — those are people they trust,” Rowe said. “We need to find conduits to get them to hear our messages, and listen to them as well. It’s got to be a two-way street — we’ve got to listen to them, they need to listen to us.”

Rowe grew up on a wheat and cattle farm in Creston, Wash.

“We are the epitome of a roast beef sandwich,” she said.

Eric Maier, Ritzville, Wash., farmer and a past president of the wheat growers association, said Rowe can break large problems into manageable sizes.

“I think a lot of it comes back to her ag roots,” he said, noting she shares a love of the land with producers.

Holterhoff agrees, citing Rowe’s successes as an advocate for the industry through WAWG.

“I think she has a real understanding of what it takes for a farmer or rancher to be successful in their own business, and translating some of those key aspects into something that’s meaningful to those people outside of agriculture,” he said. “She’s got a really unique way of being able to deliver that message.”

Rowe hopes to see the Washington Grown project eventually encompass all of the state’s agriculture and Washington Grown recognized by all consumers, who pass along good information about producers.

“That’s what we’re trying to build — that army of people who are educated about farming and ranching with the truth and they’re out spreading our message as well,” she said.

Kara Rowe

Occupation: Outreach and Affairs Director, Washington Association of Wheat Growers

Age: 35

Hometown: Creston, Wash.

Current location: Medical Lake, Wash.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in communication, Washington State University, minors in political science and English

Family: Husband Ryan; daughter Kali, 7

Websites: Washington Association of Wheat Growers: www.wawg.org

Washington Grown: www.wagrown.com


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