|For the week of April 30, 2012|
Prime Time for Sharing the Story of Agriculture
Spring planting is in full swing in many parts of the country and is only a few weeks away in others. Most farmers have been preparing for this task since they wound down from fall harvest. Field work, particularly planting, is a highly visible undertaking for farmers. Because of that, planting season is ripe for farmers to engage with people who are not familiar with agriculture.
It’s unfortunate that a lot of people have completely lost touch with where their food comes from or how it gets to their table or favorite restaurant.
The editor of an agricultural publication once told the true story of an encounter she had with a person who made the dietary choice of being a vegetarian. That person truly believed it was OK, as a vegetarian, to eat chicken wings “Because they grow back.” Granted, this is an extreme example. But, a growing number of people have lost touch with farming. And farmers have found that explaining modern production agriculture isn’t always easy. That’s not always what people are most interested in hearing about, anyway. Most people don’t want to hear national facts and figures about agriculture, either. And they don’t want to be on the receiving end of a one-sided lecture. They’re more interested in what the farmers near them do on their farms.
This brings to mind a quote located in the Cox Corridors of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., Daniel Webster is credited with saying, “When tillage begins other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.”
Those of us involved with agriculture know that what Webster said so many years ago remains true today, but as citizens pursued other arts, they have forgotten what brought our nation to prosperity. Still, many people are curious about today’s agriculture.
An interesting dichotomy is that public curiosity with farming and ranching continues to increase as people become further removed from knowing how their food is produced. This presents a great opportunity to fill that knowledge gap.
More and more often, farmers are joining in the national conversation consumers are having about food and farming. By listening carefully, farmers often discover they can address concerns consumers have about food by sharing their stories about their farms.
As urban populations expand into the countryside, farmers are finding increased opportunities to tell their stories. Interacting in this way helps consumers gain a true understanding of the passion farmers have for the environment, animal well being and how important, strong and viable farming methods are to our nation’s overall prosperity.
So while you are engaged in planting the seeds for this year’s crops, also think about ways you can help plant seeds of better understanding with the consuming public. As you are turning that planter at the end of the row, you might just be asked to join in the conversation. Don’t hesitate to do so.
Ken Gordon is a new contributor to the Focus on Agriculture series. He is a public relations consultant in Ohio.