EDUCATING NON-FARMERS: WHY WE CARE

I rode the bus to school. Starting in junior high and until I finally had a car my senior year of high school, Bus Driver Louis and his passengers trekked the same path every morning of every school year. Prattville Junior High School (Go Cats!) and Prattville High School (Go Lions!) are separated by less than two miles in the growing suburb of Prattville, Alabama. So do the math and we did the same route at least 1,800 times across 5 years.

The schools are near the outskirts of town and the most common entry point between the two is Powell Road. The namesake belongs to the Powell family who owns most of the land on both sides of the road. Aside from the towing and wrecking service they operate, they farm cotton and sorghum on the surrounding land.

I had no idea that the Powell family farmed cotton or sorghum or even that they regularly farmed the land until searching the internet about 20 minutes ago. Seems strange considering I rode past the farm probably 3,000+ times. Also, it was the only farm that I saw regularly. Yet, I remained ignorant of general farming knowledge until I started working at IL Corn six years later.

So why am I giving you a personal history lesson? To prove a point: Most people, even if they have minimal access to a farm, don’t understand farming. I passed a farm every day for a quarter of my life and still didn’t take the time to learn. My school did not have an ag curriculum. Simply put, a majority of people have a minority of farming knowledge.

Our world depends on farming for sustenance, but non-farmers do not rely on farmers for their knowledge about food and farming. Non-farmers are being influenced by non-farmers based on fancy marketing and nebulous ideas not based in science. That’s where IL Corn comes in. We want to reach people like me who have barely any farming knowledge, have little access to farming, and unwittingly accept information from “experts” who suffer from our same condition (see the previous two items).

Here are the facts. Farms are overwhelmingly family owned and operated, often going back generations. Yeah, we are talking the 19th century, people. Farmers are not beholden to corporations or to government bodies. Also, farming is a booming industry with technological advancements that would stagger any Average Joe or Josephine. So let’s put this together: We have a wealth of straight talking farmers who have holistic knowledge dating back centuries with some of the smartest people making their jobs safer and more efficient. So why are we entranced by people that have overwhelmingly fewer credentials?

We have no intention to denigrate dietitians, food professionals, or people passionate about food. We are all in the same boat here. However, we have to be better about communicating opinions versus facts. At IL Corn, we are striving to connect with non-farmers and invigorate self-directed learning about farming without the black veil of clever marketing. To trust our food, we must trust our farmers. To trust our farmers, we must take the time to meet them.

It is okay to question. It is okay to doubt. It is not okay to take facts for granted. You want the truth. Farmers want to give the truth. Let’s meet in the middle.

McDonald_Taylor

Taylor McDonald
Communications Assistant
IL Corn

Leave a Reply