Too little, too late? NOPE
I was fortunate enough to attend the AgChat 2015 Cultivate and Connect Conference in Nashville recently, and, as I often do after being in the presence of such powerful AgVocates, I returned fired up and inspired.
I believe that what those of us who advocate for agriculture do is really important. Whether it’s a blog post, a Tweet, a Facebook share or a photo from the farm posted to Instagram, social media is everywhere, and it opens the barn doors both figuratively and literally to those who might not otherwise have any connection with farming.
In addition to those opportunities, I love the way the CommonGround program helps to train AgVocates for media interviews and one-on-one conversations. So many people want to jump in and help people understand what really happens on the farm, but they’re afraid to say the wrong thing, so they just keep quiet. That’s why CommonGround training is so great. There are no talking points, simply help with learning how to tell your story, your way. Authenticity is a key point of CommonGround, and that’s important. We can’t educate folks who don’t find us to be relatable, open and real.
So, being as inspired as I am upon returning from the AgChat conference, it just broke my heart to see a blog post from a farmer in another state. I follow her blog, and seeing a post titled “That Time I Gave Up on AgVocacy” just hurt. She said that she had tried and tried to talk to people, to share her story, and to gently address their misperceptions. She feels as if they don’t want to listen, and that nothing she says – not matter how or how often she says it – will make a difference, and that’s really discouraging, so she’s quitting.
I think she has some valid points, and I know from experience that trying to address some of the hot topics in the media and conversation these days is exhausting.
We, meaning those of us involved in agriculture, ARE rather late to the game. We’re behind the 8-ball with folks who are demonizing GMO technology, we’re late to the conversations about glyphosate and water and sustainability and erosion, and that’s sad. I think we are late to those conversations because we know that what we’re doing is the right thing. We know we’re not “drenching” any fields with herbicides, and we know we’re not making Frankenfood. We know that we need to take care of the land for future generations, and because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what we’ve always done. We know that while animals are raised for consumption, we need to give them a good life and a humane ending. It’s just the right thing to do.
But “we” knowing doesn’t get our knowledge out to our ultimate customer, the consumer. And “they,” the detractors of conventional ag and biotechnology, are reaching consumers with their opinionated (at best) misinformation and (at worst) their demands for farmers to use or discard certain methods that the detractors really don’t even understand.
I particularly like the comment in the movie “Farmland” in which a farmer says “we don’t have anything to hide, we just need to know… what do you wanna know?” I hope that those of you who share your stories will continue to do so. There’s no magic bullet to stop the misinformation and fearmongering that is going on, both in traditional media and social media. These misperceptions will only subside one conversation at a time.
I do have to say that for one discouraged AgVocate post, I read two that were written by female bloggers who had visited farms and whose perceptions had changed. One was on my friend Krista’s blog, TheFarmersWifee.com. She’s a wife, mother and dairy farmer in Washington State, and she recently interviewed a city lady who had visited a dairy farm. The takeway? “Trust dairy farmers more. They know what they’re doing.”
CommonGround of Kentucky hosted a media tour and farm-to-table lunch at Tommee Clark’s Sunny Acres Farm back in September. We had bloggers and media writers who learned about where their food comes from.
The Kentucky Livestock Coalition was a major sponsor of the Kentucky Proud Incredible Food Show. We asked questions, we answered questions, we had great conversations. And people learned about food and farming and how they tie together.
So keep the faith, AgVocates. Keep on keeping on – keep sharing your stories, keep posting on social media, keep inviting the homemakers club and the FFA and the radio station and the newspaper to your farm. You ARE making a difference, one perception at a time.