It was easy for Iowa Farm Bureau members to spot differences between agriculture practices in Iowa and Poland when they visited the central European country last week for the Iowa Farm Bureau market study tour.
Wheat, rye and other small grains dominate the landscape, with only small plots of corn visible and very few soybeans. The countryside is dotted with orchards because Poland is one of the world’s largest apple exporters. And the cattle you see are likely to be dairy breeds, with beef being a small part of the Polish diet and the country’s export focus.
But the Iowans also learned that their Polish hosts are working through many similar challenges as farmers in America, particularly when it comes to consumer outreach.
According to Polish farmers, most consumers have an outdated understanding about today’s agriculture and old ideas about food.
That lack of knowledge causes problems.
An example is the way that many Polish consumers are turning away from pork because they think it’s fatty and unhealthy, said Katrzyne Skrzymonska of Polsus, a pork genetics improvement organization. "Consumers don’t understand that today’s pork is a very lean and healthy meat," she said.
In the same way that U.S. pig farmers have done with their successful promotion campaigns, Poland’s pork industry is working to update public opinion. They are working with doctors and dieticians to help show that pork has changed and isn’t the same as when their parents and grandparents used to cook it. And like many Farm Bureau members in Iowa, Polish farmers are launching an effort to provide schools with updated and correct information about agriculture in school curriculums.
The Iowa visitors also nodded their heads in understanding when Waclow Dzicrdzeel, manager of a southwestern Poland beef and dairy farm, expressed some frustration about complaints from neighbors about odors.
The farm has operated in the same place for years, the manager explained, while most of the upset neighbors are new to the area. But the farm, Dzicrdzeel said, is working on neighbor relations and has stopped applying manure on weekdays.
The Polish farmer knows that building neighbor relations is an important part of livestock raising these days. It’s just another thing that Iowa farmers share with farmers in Poland, and all over the world.