OCEAN CITY - Are the apples you bought at the roadside stand on your way home coated with chemicals? How about the carrots and potatoes you picked up at the farmers' market?
Consumers, who shop these days with a heightened awareness of the environment, are demanding more information about how their food is grown.
And farmers want to give them that information.
"(Consumers) don't believe the chemical companies, and they think the environmentalists are a bit loony," said Wade Dudrow of Talbot County, a vice president of the Maryland Farm Bureau.
"Farmers are professionals from the ground up," Dudrow said.
"Farmers believe people have every right, and even an obligation, to learn everything they can about food safety."
Farmers from Carroll County and around the state are starting a campaign to explain to consumers how their food is grown.
Tuesday, at the annual Maryland Farm Bureau meeting here, farmers saw for the first time a slide show and presentation about food safety that will be given to civic and school groups.
Farmers, in cooperation with county extension service agents, will give the presentation in hopes of "telling our side of the story," said Jack Miller, public affairs director for the Maryland Farm Bureau.
It's a public relations campaign, he said.
Dudrow said, "Too often, the voice of the American farmer goes unheard when food safety is discussed."
In Carroll, Jean Knill, information director for the Carroll County Farm Bureau, and Westminster dairy farmer Glenn Shirley are coordinating the program with the help of Carroll and Howard extension agents.
Their first presentation will be Feb. 27 to Carroll Earth Care, a citizens group working to protect the environment, Knill said. The group requested the presentation, she said.
The state Farm Bureau hopes to expand the public relations program in the future to include topics such as the environment and animal rights, Miller said.
Dudrow and Queen Anne's County extension agent Paul Gunther gave Farm Bureau members from around the state a preview of the presentation Tuesday.
The presentation, which county Farm Bureaus will be ready to give in mid-January, is 15 to 20 minutes long and includes a slide show and a question-and-answer period.
Knill said she would like to give the presentation to the county Farm Bureau board of directors, the monthly Agribusiness breakfast group and the Carroll Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen Weber, president of the Baltimore County Farm Bureau and operator of a roadside market, said the most frequently asked question by customers used to be the difference between apple juice and apple cider.
Now, he said, it's whether the fruit he sells is safe.
"Your neighbors want to hear from you," Weber told farmers.
The slide show, and an accompanying brochure produced by the American Farm Bureau Federation, says farmers work to use chemicals "safely and responsibly."
"Without the use of at least some chemicals, the food supply would be less abundant, more costly and of lower quality," the brochure says.
Farmers, including those in Carroll, use a technique called "integrated pest management" in which they use as few chemicals as possible, Dudrow said.