National Agriculture Week is is coming to a close in the U.S., with the grand finale falling on the first day of spring. Designed to “recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture” it’s a week filled with breakfasts, school visits, educational displays to help people remember that food does not come from a grocery store or a factory.
However, I have to ask the question…does anyone outside of agriculture care? It’s very telling of this country’s mindset about food production when we have to proclaim a week to draw attention to products featured at three meals daily. Now, before I ruffle any feathers, please know that I applaud and support the efforts of Ag Council of America, the official coordinators of Ag Day. It is a great tool for agriculturists to reach out in their communities and build understanding. If you haven’t seen the fact sheet, take a look at http://www.agday.org/media/factsheet.php.
The reality is that most consumers aren’t coming to agriculture’s party. If they were, westernized countries wouldn’t have the levels of misunderstanding about biotechnology, animal rights, global warming from farms, fertilizers and the scads of other issues driving a wedge between the farm gate and consumer. Little thought is given the business of raising food until economics make food unaffordable or a sensationalized media story brings agriculture to mind. It’s time to change that.
You are equipped with the tools to help, providing you have a mouth and ears. I believe that those of us in agriculture must tell our story every day and listen for questions – even those unspoken – in our families, circles of friends and professional networks. I also believe consumers have to put their mouth to work asking questions before they listen to popular press. We need to create a dialogue between the people producing and eating the food, rather than allowing marketing misinformation and middlemen to get in the way. In celebration of National Agriculture Week this year, I’ve created a Facebook group “Connecting Food Consumers & Producers” to help foster that dialogue. I hope you’ll join in the conversation.
Whether you use your voice online or in person, I challenge you to find a way to celebrate agriculture every day of the year. It can be as simple as having a conversation or as complicated as creating a community day at your agribusiness. If you don’t celebrate agriculture, rest assured there’s a multi-million activist industry who is having that conversation for you.