For the first time in a long time, I found myself with a column deadline looming, and I didn’t immediately know what I was going to write about. Oh, sure, I had some ideas, some subjects, and any of them would have been “fine” for a column.
But you know what? I think that people who take the time to read what I write deserve a lot better than “fine,” so I was in a quandary. As I watched the 2017 Country Music Association Awards, I had an “AHA!” moment and my quandary disappeared. It was on that program that Tyler Perry, an African-American director and actor known for his portrayal of Madea in a number of movies, said these words: “Now it has never been more important, that we all come together, find some common ground, spend some time listening to each other, and realize that we are more alike than we are not alike.”
And he’s right. His remarks were directed at getting people from a variety of backgrounds to come together to make the world a better place, and that’s certainly something we need to do. But I‘m thinking about how very applicable his words are for those of us in agriculture who share our stories about food and farming with the other 98 percent of the population. It’s not always an easy task, often because we know that the non-farm public (by and large) doesn’t “get it,” and they’re different from those of us in agriculture who do.
Really, though, we are all alike in a number of ways. That new first-time mom who is terrified of feeding her baby soy-based formula because she doesn’t understand the science behind GMO plant breeding? She’s not that much different than the farm mom who wants what’s best for her baby, too. The cancer patient who is afraid and hurting, and rants endlessly about glyphosate? He saw something on Facebook relating that chemistry to his disease, and in his condition, he wants some answers… and he’s not going to know if the ones he finds are factual or not.
The vegans who think that, by avoiding animal protein, they’re saving the planet? As farmers, we tout our sustainability practices as doing the right thing for the planet. See? More alike than different.
I’m not a mom, so I’ve never had that new-mom fear of everything, but I can imagine that the responsibility that comes with bringing a little one home from the hospital and being on your own for decision-making is cripplingly overwhelming. I’ve lost loved ones to cancer, as we all have, and yes – I want to know WHY. I like to believe that we all want to do the right thing – the best thing, the thing that is good and healthy for our loved ones. Unfortunately, farmers wrongly get a lot of bad press, when you and I both know that farmers are unmatched when it comes to being good stewards of the land.
It’s part of our job as agriculturalists to be open, accessible, transparent and truthful about modern ag practices. I know, sometimes it’s hard not to respond to a question with “that’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard,” but we have to try, and we have to tell our stories over and over, in person, on social media and at gatherings where we can be heard.
So the next time you hear an all-time contender for “stupidest question ever,” remember that the person asking it is coming from a place of simply not knowing and, maybe, of fear. Remember that we’re more alike than we are different, and do what you can to answer the questions and get rid of the fear.