[Originally published July 28, 2011]
A mutual friend recently introduced me to someone I’ll call Jane. Jane is college-educated, holds a good job and seemed to be an all around intellectual individual. In the course of our conversation and in getting to know each other it came up that I was from a farm. She literally said to me, “Oh my gosh, YOU are an ACTUAL farmer?” I explained that no, I have a full-time job, but my Dad IS a farmer and yes, I do still help on the farm when he needs it and my time allows. His operation isn’t large enough to hire full-time farmhands… that’s why he had four kids of course, built in help!
Jane was so excited to meet an actual ‘farmer’, she had a lot of questions that I was happy to answer. Some of them seemed so silly to me that I had a hard time not rolling my eyes. But then I remembered: if we as individuals who KNOW the answers to the silly questions don’t take them seriously, then who will? The people who have an anti-ag agenda, that’s who. And trust me, they are out there scattering their false statements around like a manure spreader.
After a lengthy conversation, I think Jane has a better understanding of agriculture and what farming actually is all about. She had no clue that 94% of all farms are family owned. Instead, she thought that the majority were owned by corporate entities and they just hired people to work on the farms. I asked her why she thought that and she said one of the reasons was the signs in fields. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. Those seed corn signs that are all over the countryside this time of year? Yeah, to those outside of the ag world, they think that displays ownership of the field.
I must admit there were a few of her questions that I couldn’t give a precise answer to. Like what exactly are in pesticides and how they are applied. I’m not a chemist, nor do I have an applicators license, so while I can give broad answers, I can’t give specific details. However, since I do also work in the ag industry, I told her that it would be easy for me to find the answers and would gladly do so for her if she would like me to.
I present this only as an example and a reminder of what the ag community needs to do. If urban folks that literally live in our own backyards are excited, impressed and shocked to meet an actual ‘farmer’ then we aren’t doing our jobs! For so long, farmers have belonged to an association thinking that the association would promote their industry for them. That worked for a while, but no more.
Non-farmers want to connect with farmers. They want to understand who you are, what you do and why you do it. If you don’t tell them, who will?