Do you know where your food comes from?

Published 11:07 am Thursday, June 22, 2017

Recently, a friend sent me a link to an article from The Washington Post. I saw the title of the article and immediately let out a sort of horrified laugh, half expecting it to be a joke.

It was called “The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.”

According to the Post article, the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy did a “nationally representative online survey” and from those results learned that seven percent (or about 16.4 million people) believe that brown cows are the source of chocolate milk.

Listen, I’m not a diary farmer, but I can reasonably say for certain that the color of the cow doesn’t have any bearing on the milk that comes out of it. Chocolate milk is made from mixing cocoa additives with the drink. It’s called “chocolate” milk because it’s literally made of chocolate!

While I’m hoping that perhaps it was just an absurdly high number of stupid people (or trolls) who took the survey, the article continues on to point out something a bit more interesting. More and more Americans these days don’t have any idea where their food comes from or what processes happen for that food to magically appear in the grocery store.

“Agriculturally illiterate” is the term the Post article used.

It went on to explain how living in cities—and thus, being further removed from the agriculture process—meant that people simply didn’t learn about food before it made it to their local grocery store. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

This quote from the article is pretty telling: “We still get kids who are surprised that a French fry comes from a potato, or that a pickle is a cucumber,” said Cecily Upton.

Upton is a co-founder of FoodCorps, a non-profit organization trying to increase agriculture and nutrition information in schools.

Reading the whole article made me feel quite concerned.

I would guess, however, that at least most people around here in our part of the state are a bit more informed. Agriculture is one of our biggest industries here after all. You can’t drive down any road and not see at least one field. We all know several farmers and are probably related to at least one.

I myself am a farmer’s daughter.

So we probably aren’t as “agriculturally illiterate” as the people mentioned in the article, but it never hurts to try to gain more knowledge about any subject. My suggestion, other than simply talking to a farmer or joining the local 4H club, is to try gardening. Even if it’s just a few pots on the kitchen windowsill, it’ll still be an interesting experience.

It’s a little late to plant a lot of summer vegetables, but it’s the perfect time for pumpkins! And if you wait until August to plant, you can try growing things like kale, eggplant, and okra. A little bit of research can help you out.

Gardening isn’t always easy, but it’s rewarding (and tasty!) to see that hard work pay off. Getting some dirt under your fingernails isn’t too bad.

When we’ve got the chance to learn about agriculture right in front of us, there’s no reason not to take it. Hopefully the next time someone conducts a survey like this, people will be less likely to say that different colored cows mean different flavored milk.

I just have one last question for the misinformed people who took that survey: Where exactly do you think strawberry milk comes from?!


Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.