Agriculture Farm to Table food safety Health Healthy Eating local Professional strategy

My Name is Not Susan

Don’t assume everyone is using the same words for the same things, especially as our expertise and audiences blend in the food, nutrition, and agriculture conversation.

A shout out to 1980’s/early 1990’s Whitney Houston. The title of this post is inspired by one particular song that refers to a woman who is mad at her boyfriend for calling her by his ex-girlfriend’s name.

I’ve noticed a similar situation – calling something by a wrong (or misunderstood) name  – in food, nutrition, and agriculture.  People are using terms without giving particular thought to the receiver’s definition or use of the word or phrase.  The funny (and frustrating) part is, two people talking about the same thing using different words may get into an argument to validate their point of view when they actually already agree. Two other people might be talking about completely different things but using the same words, so thinking they agree, but they actually don’t. Argh.

What to do, what to do.  Level set the conversation. Don’t assume everyone is using the same words for the same things, especially as our expertise and audiences continue to converge. If you get health professionals, business people, the lay public, and agriculture experts (to name a few) in the mix, it’s going to be awesome if we make sure we know what we are all talking about. Take a moment in your conversation to share what is meant by the words you are using. It can make a world of difference in moving things forward in a positive direction. Here are a few examples of words to define:


“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

– Winston Churchill

Some people will come into a strategic conversation thinking of the finish line (the win). Others will want to talk about the process (the training program to win the race) necessary to get to the finish line. Take a moment to talk about these different ways of approaching things first so everyone knows the end goal is shared, but the working styles may be different. Why are we doing this?  What is the goal? Who needs to be involved? What resources are needed? When is it due? It’s also important to note that health and wellness is personal, so a strategy about this topic will be more successful if we honor that, too.

Photo by on Unsplash

“…one-time events masquerading as health promotion programs – that is, activities not integrated into a comprehensive workplace health promotion strategy – are likely to fail. “ -Harvard Business Review

“Strategies that are most effective in both prevention and management of chronic disease consider factors such as age, ethnicity, community, and technology…Primary care providers can support behavior changes by providing venues for peer interventions and family meetings and by making new partnerships with community organizations.” -PubMed article (click quote to read)


There is more to health than the absence of disease. But what is it, exactly? The World Health Organization said this in 1948: “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Good stuff. But this article makes a great point – that is more of a description than a definition, as it doesn’t say what it does or how to measure it. Another thought provoking article about this is “In Search of Non-Disease” and can be found here.

No wonder we have a tricky time trying to figure out what to do in health and wellness. It’s complex to define and measure. It varies from person to person, and even the same person may define it differently depending on the day or occasion.

“There is no disease that you either have or don’t have—except perhaps sudden death and rabies. All other diseases you either have a little or a lot of.”

Geoffrey Rose epidemiologist

From farm to table, if we remember what food, life, and health mean to us individually, it may help us be more authentic in our health and wellbeing conversation and decision making, both personally and professionally.

Farm to Table:  

Pretty much everything we eat and drink gets its start on the farm. The phrase “farm to table” (or farm to fork, grass to glass, etc.) conjures up some beautiful imagery. That’s great! Being happy about, and thankful for, agriculture is fundamental to our food supply. Part of the happiness and fun is sharing how you think about it. I once had a conversation with a restauranteur who sourced meat and vegetables locally and worked directly with farmers. Yet he didn’t consider himself farm to table, because every single thing on the menu was not local. For example, in the Midwest, bananas do not grow well. But you can still be farm to table if you have bananas in the Midwest. They are locally sourced from where they are best grown. To me, that’s the best version of farm to table. Grow things where it’s best to do so, and honor the harvest no matter where you are.

Photo by Stella de Smit on Unsplash

Support local farmers everywhere, because they are growing/raising food where it makes sense to do so. Food is fun to talk about, and fun almost always makes serious topics easier to talk about.

As you can see, I think this is a fun and essential conversation to have, and there’s so much more to it. You’ll see me tackling this and working to help spur thought and productive, fun conversation on this, moving us all to do better, be more thoughtful, and understand things more fully.

Thanks for reading my blogs and sharing your thoughts, too. Together we can figure this out and evolve the conversation to get to the “why” so we know what to do about it.

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.

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