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Are You an Advocate for Agriculture? - 20 August 2013

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Tuesday 20th August 2013.
Sarah Mikesell - TheCropSite Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell
Senior Editor

Are You an Advocate for Agriculture?

Greetings! Last week, I had what I’ve come to realize is an all-too-typical experience in America. My niece Hannah is a model and she was having her photo taken by a photographer in the suburbs of Chicago. As we were waiting for Hannah to change outfits, the photographer asked me what I do and I explained that I am an agricultural journalist.

She looked at me and said “Aren’t you worried about all the stuff they are putting into our food these days?” My very blunt response was, “No, not at all.” At that moment, I realized I had not just an opportunity, but an obligation to educate this very intelligent person about the food that she buys for her family every day.

And so I talked to her about large-scale grain and livestock operations, and why in the grand-scheme of our growing population they are incredibly important as is the technology that they utilize. I also told her I’m not against organic farming – I think it will take all types of producers - commercial, small-scale, local, organic, etc. to feed the world.

In the end, she looked at me and said, “Why doesn’t anyone ever tell us this side of the story?”

And THAT was the hardest question to answer, because I didn’t have a good answer. It’s not really that as an industry we don’t have the money to tell our story in a big way. We could trumpet our message louder. It’s not that we don’t have organizations whose ultimate goal is to talk to consumers about where their food comes from. And it's not that we don't have the technology to track where a person's food comes from. But we’re still struggling with consumers who are out of the sphere of agriculture, meaning they don’t personally know a farmer or rancher.

The real question is: Why are we so shy about telling consumers our story?

Taking a look in the family “mirror”, I’d say that the people who know the most about farming, like my Dad, aren’t exactly the most out-going personality types. One might even say my Dad is a classic introvert. He doesn’t like crowds, and I’m quite sure he’d rather lose a major organ than have to speak in front of a crowd. I also think he would think advocating for agriculture is bragging. And a bragger he is not – the furthest thing from it.

To be fair, here in the US we have several organizations who train their farmer members to be AGvocates and speak on agriculture’s behalf. And I applaud those folks who are out there doing it.

But you don’t have to be a professional speaker to tell agriculture's story, which is essentially your story.

My challenge to you is to tell one person every month what you do and why it’s important. And my challenge is not just for the US or just for farmers – it for everyone working in agriculture around the world. Talk to people. I did and I believe it made a difference.

And Dad, it’s not bragging. :)

Have a great week!

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