Over the past few weeks I have really enjoyed the feed back from my articles on the CNN Eatocracy page. My first post introduced the topic of searching out food conversations between farmers and customers. Many great questions and points of concern were raised with this one.
My second article explained how to find these conversations and I shared a number of links to farmers who are utilizing social media to connect with their customers. There has been great feed back from this one and I greatly enjoy all of the messages.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to join the AgriTalk radio program and talk with Mike Adams about my recent work with CNN Eatocracy and how others can reach out and begin sharing their stories. If you have a few moments, listen to the segment and my talk with Mike in this podcast from AgriTalk.com.
During my talk with Mike on Monday, I raised the suggestion that food conversations need to include a more balanced education about the issues. I introduced the idea in my most recent article on CNN Eatocracy.
First impressions are critical when it comes to forming opinions; unfortunately, they do not always convey the entire story. Modern farming faces this problem, as most farmers have remained quiet and allowed animal and food activists to talk about modern agriculture. I think more people should allow farmers to be a part of this conversation.
As I mentioned in a previous article, I grew up in an Arkansas farm family on a cattle ranch where we had our way of raising animals. I realized there is more to the story of ranching, so I embraced opportunities for education by working with cattle ranchers in Oklahoma and Tennessee, raising cattle for natural beef marketing in Wyoming, and working in several Texas feedlots. These experiences have broadened my skill set and perspective of raising cattle. However, that is not where the learning ends.
I have also explored learning opportunities from the other side of the story. Groups like Mercy for Animals, Humane Society of the United States, and PETA often publish undercover videos depicting scenes of animal cruelty and abuse. These videos are uncomfortable to watch, but I watch them because it is how they choose to present farming.
I also seek out others’ opinions through books and online literature. I own and have read material by food activists like Michael Pollan, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Joel Salatin, because I know they view things differently than I do, and I care to know why they believe what they do. Acknowledging these differences and learning to understand them is a part of a more balanced education.
This need for a more balanced education applies to folks in agriculture as much as it does to non-Ag consumers. Sometime we get so wrapped up in what we are familiar with or our first impressions of something that we forget to hear out the other side of the story. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else. The more we learn about alternative viewpoints and methods of production, the better we will understand our own management decisions.
From my experience in the cattle community, we are so stuck to tradition that we are hindered when the opportunity presents itself to improve our methods of farming or to respond to the demands of our customers. Part of my generation’s role will be to figure out how to keep pace with changes in the food markets and retain our sense of heritage in the farming and ranching lifestyles. What has happened in the past doesn’t matter if we fail to pave the way for a better future.
What opportunities do you embrace to expand your experiences and learn more about other sides of food and agriculture subjects?
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”