For the last two weeks, I have been talking about the modern age of Agriculture, and how the internet affects us more today than possibly any source has in the past. The last two weeks I have highlighted how Agronomy needs to be more transparent and enforce that it is a Science that has to be practiced to improve and be transparent along the way. I also talked about how we need to strengthen our acceptance of all spaces of Agriculture production. No more chastising of specialty crops, because it just hurts us all. But how does it hurt us all? That answer lies in the third leg of this discussion, which is Agvocacy. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Agvocacy is simply the advocacy of agriculture, particularly in an online form.
I firmly believe that Agriculture suffers from an image problem. I could consume several pages and minutes expressing some, and it would be the tip of the iceberg. But I genuinely believe that it is as simple as this; ask a farmer what they do, and they will often tell you “feed the world.” Ask 100 urban consumers what a farmer does, and you will get a wide range of answers. There is a multitude of reasons for this difference, but the reality is that it simply doesn’t matter. We as an Ag Community must come together and take on the role of PR to the public.
So, as I talked about last week when we are challenging each other on social media, that feeds the beast. That is negative PR for our cause. When we highlight the how’s and the why’s on the other hand, we not only inform, we educate. For those of you from my generation that grew up with “Schoolhouse Rock” on Saturday mornings, there was a line in the opening where the kid said, “Because Knowledge is Power.” That is the mentality that we have to embrace.
I am confident that you farm smarter than you did ten years ago. If I were to use our AquaSystems platform as an example, you might be using 2-acre inches less water to raise a crop than you used to. If we did the math, that means you are using 54,000 gallons less water per acre. The average person uses 80 gallons of water per day, which means you just saved enough water for one person for the next 675 days. Multiple that by 135 acres, or 1 irrigated field, and you have saved enough water for three people’s entire life (250 years’ worth of water at 80 gallons per day.)
That is the crutch of this. We need to focus on a positive image for agriculture. The take home for today is simply this. It doesn’t matter if we agree or disagree with our consumers about what agriculture is or means to them. Consumers vote with their wallets, and if we want Agriculture to stay healthy, then we must listen to the votes of the public. Make no mistake about it; this is not about a unified message or a single voice. If it were then this would be the job of a checkoff program, a food company, or a Coop. But it’s a job that we all share responsibility for. Your experiences in Ag about how and why you do what you do will resonate with a different group of people than my experiences will. And that only happens when you tell your story, and I tell mine. This doesn’t just happen online, but it is a great place to start.
Every single one of us has a vested interest in creating an open dialog about how food is grown and raised. And that is what I hope you got from this discussion about the three A’s of Agriculture. Some of this is for us and us alone, and some of this is for our industry, and our livelihood as a whole. Regardless, we need to realize that in this day and age, it is all on display for everybody inside and outside of agriculture to watch and analyze not just what we do, but also why and how we do it.