July 29, 2014
Agriculture is magical. If you work around it day in and day out, you might forget for a moment. From robotic milking to soybean fields as far as the eye can see, agriculture is the amazing practice of feeding the world. But for being so enormously important, it sure is taken for granted.
I have a secret, and it’s not my fault, but…I grew up in the city (gasp, the shame). It’s true, I grew up in the city and until a few years ago I didn’t think twice about where my food came from. I knew where it came from – the grocery store, of course. Since then I have been given the opportunity to work in agriculture, with many different clients across many different industries. Boy, was I missing out during my “city girl” days. I’m a very passionate person, often overzealous, and these days if there were one thing that I could scream from a mountaintop, it would be about the responsibility of consumer education.
We can point fingers, blame the younger version of me for my ignorance. It’s a vicious cycle. I never asked (or cared) where my food came from, and a producer never popped out of a sack of potatoes to explain anything to me. I remained completely oblivious to reality: if I don’t support agriculture, someday there may not be enough cheese for everyone. Think about it: more-and-more people are eating cheese and less-and-less people are even aware of where it comes from (hint: they go, “moo”). It’s a matter of cheese sustainability. I joke, but sustainability is a very serious issue. One that we are all responsible for and as it stands, the vast majority of consumers are standing around, munching on their mozzarella, assuming that the elusive “farmer” will figure it out for them.
Sadly, a lack of support for agriculture isn’t the only issue. When consumers don’t have much information, misinformation is easily accepted. Fortunately, it’s not as if farms have 20-foot walls and moats with crocodiles surrounding them (at least none that I’ve encountered yet). In fact, farms are increasingly very accessible to the public, offering farm tours and updating the world via well-managed websites and social media. Agritourism is really taking off and it is oh so important.
If you’re a producer, it’s your responsibility to answer questions and proactively educate consumers (as if feeding the world wasn’t a full-time job already). But you’re not alone; you’ve got me (oh no, not the city girl!)…and my team of expert marketing and public relations professionals. Oh, and your children (the next generation), your neighboring communities and the entire World Wide Web to help you foster a more sustainable public opinion of agriculture. If you’re a messenger, like me, it’s your job to advocate honestly and effectively. And if you’re a consumer, it’s your responsibility to take a moment to listen, ensure you have the right information and act accordingly. We’ve all got jobs and sometimes a little pep talk can go a long way.
I think I have my next great campaign idea. It’s called:
WITHOUT AGRICULTURE THERE IS NO CHEESE.
(That no cheese thing really throws us city folk into a tizzy, trust me.)