Bruce King, an Everett pig farmer who's blogged every weekday for the last three years, isn't traveling to Portland for this weekend's International Food Bloggers Conference. He hadn't even heard of the meeting until I rang him up to ask about it.
"Nobody contacted me," he said.
For hundreds of food bloggers, the annual conference is a can't-miss event. But their community includes relatively few farm bloggers, who are more concerned with producing food than preparing it. According to a new study conducted by conference organizers, "The prototypical food blogger is a married woman in her 30s or 40s living in the United States."
Although a study report asserts "it is impossible to generalize," researchers found 89 percent of food bloggers cover recipes. A smaller but still significant percentage of bloggers write restaurant reviews and post about alcoholic drinks. Agricultural topics were lumped under "other," a catchall category covered slightly less frequently than "healthy living."
"I don't think farm bloggers are a large percentage of food bloggers," organizer Allan Wright says. "We would welcome more of them at the IFBC."
While farm bloggers aren't participating in IFBC, the conference is sponsored by a number of agricultural industry groups, including Pork Checkoff's We Care, an initiative jointly sponsored by the the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council. The National Pork Board is hosting tomorrow morning's breakfast, the second half of which is devoted to a We Care presentation on "responsible, ethical farming."
"To help create more awareness about farming, America's hog farmers are working to bridge the agricultural divide by sharing their way of life with the non-farming public at the 2012 International Food Bloggers Conference," We Care explains on its website.
But King sees the situation differently, and suspects other farm bloggers would too.
"The National Pork Council is the confinement pork lobby," he says. "That's what they are. So I would like them to show a picture of the barn where the pigs were raised, to talk about the 14 square-feet that the pig had and the manure lagoon. It's not that it's good or bad, it's what's happening."
Without farmers on hand to challenge We Care's presentation, King wonders whether bloggers will get the full story.
"If they have a clever chef, it will be delicious," he says of the breakfast. "I'd just like to see a little more disclosure."
Wright says We Care is free to share whatever message it likes, same as the bloggers in attendance.
"From the IFBC's point of view, blogging is a very egalitarian concept," he says. "Anyone can sign up to become a blogger and it is this freedom that makes blogging the voice of the people. We treat the conference in the same way, not limiting who can sign up for the conference and not determining in advance what bloggers should have for views. We let them make up their own minds."
King concedes that the dissemination of accurate information doesn't guarantee farmers and food lovers will agree. He points to Smoke Farm, which recently hosted Burning Beast, a carnivorous extravaganza at which one of King's pigs was cooked. Plans call for "restoring" the 360-acre former dairy farm as a "habitat for fish, birds, and people."
"In order to be in that group of foodies, you have to want to destroy farmland," says King, who keeps 500 pigs and this year sold 2500 piglets to other area farmers. According to King, if you eat local pork in King or Snohomish County, "chances are one in three it was a pig which originated with me."
"From my perspective, that's a huge waste," he says of the Smoke Farm project.
That's a perspective which won't be represented at IFBC. But what bothers King most is the apparent lack of transparency at a meeting devoted to blogging
"Part of blogging for me is to open that door," King says of his efforts to openly discuss the choices he makes on his farm. "If they don't have anyone involved in production, they can't open that door."