Last week, I began a conversation about the modern age of Agriculture, and how the internet affects us more today than possibly any source has in the past. I prefaced this conversation by saying that there are some things happening online that kind of tick me off. I should have framed that a bit differently. In all actuality, there are also some things not happening as well that tick me off. Last week I talked about how Agronomy needs to be more transparent to continue to be a Science, and not an art form. This week, I want to talk about Acceptance.
There is a tremendous amount of diversity in crop production. You can start with something as simple as tillage. There is a no-till camp, a conventional tillage camp, a strip-till camp, and of course the ridge till camp. Now, obviously, all of these different tillage systems exist for a variety of reasons. But much like a Deere vs. International battle on a 4th-grade playground, people can become passionate about why their system is right, and everybody else is wrong. Those discussions are fair, and sometimes even productive in enlightening those with opposing viewpoints as to the merits of something different, or exposing a pitfall of your current practice that you don’t see.
That highlights acceptance. Where I find it is lacking all too often, and what I want to really talk about today is the lack of acceptance when people farm different crops than us. I don’t mean wheat vs. corn. What I am talking about is the folks out there that grow Non-GMO crops and Organic. All too often I see them being belittled and talked down to for not getting with the times. For not farming the “right way.” Or worst of all, growing “Hippie Corn” and raising “sick” livestock.
The fact of the matter is that every grower that raises #2 yellow corn should thank the growers that are growing specialty crops, not chastise them. That grower that is raising Non-GMO soybeans, Organic Corn, or you name it, is doing the rest of us a service. Think about it. Why are they raising a specialty crop? It is a very simple answer; because there is a market for it. Would you make fun of somebody for raising seed corn? Of course not. Would you belittle somebody online for growing an isolated block of pharmaceutical corn? Jealous they got a contract, perhaps, but not belittle them. What about the first time somebody in your friends list plants a field of CRISPR wheat that will go to people who can’t handle gluten? I bet you know somebody who medically can’t have gluten and you will appreciate and support their decision.
There is a stigma attached to some things because it is “needed” from a medical or input standpoint, and we are completely at ease with it as long as it doesn’t affect our crops. But with some of these specialty crops, we act differently because it is a consumer choice. We all know that there are not health risks tied to GMO corn, so we chastise the consumer and the grower. But like I said before, we should extend a hand of gratitude to these growers. Because they are filling a market niche, there is less #2 yellow corn and soybeans being produced, and therefore, less to market. I am not saying it strengthens your market, but it certainly doesn’t suppress it.
Our take home today is that the bickering online about specialty crops needs to end inside of Agriculture. Not only do we need to accept the diversity of Ag, we need to encourage it. There is a home here for all of us, and just because we farm differently doesn’t mean we can’t learn from and encourage our peers to make this a better spot for all of us to work and live.