Do farm signs mislead customers? What else are we missing?

New Zealand road sign warning of a "cattl...
Cattle guard – grid of metal bars covering a hollow or hole dug in a roadway, intended to prevent the passage of livestock while allowing vehicles, etc. to pass unhindered. Not an armed person. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the first things noted when I began my blogging efforts back in 2009, was the fact that so much is taken for granted in the way of knowledge and experiences when sharing my story of ranch life.

Over the past few years, I have received so many questions asking me to explain what a term, phrase, or object is. I often take it for granted that everyone else know what that object is used for, simply because I have used it my entire life. This is so true, that the subject of my most popular blog posts is often a simple explanation of things used or referred to frequently in farm or ranch life.

Last month the Illinois Farm Bureau blog,, explained such a situation. A 2010 survey of 1,109 Illinois residents found “those surveyed believed 54 percent of farms were owned by corporations based on what they had seen on TV, commercials, and signs along farm fields.”  Could farm crop variety signs be misleading?

For many involved in agriculture, we recognize these road-side signs as displaying the different crop varieties planted. It provides a simple, easy to identify visual of how different varieties of crops are performing. However, to many non-farm customers, these signs may be perceived differently. IFB found that many see the signs as displaying the owner of the farms, often as mega-corporations instead of family operations.

Here is a blog post that describes 4 reasons farmers select different crop varieties each year.

One Illinois family took charge to fix this problem by adding some personalization to their road-side signs.

Photo Credit: Illinois Farm Bureau blog

What farm terms, signs, objects, or practices do we take for granted and assume everyone else understands their meaning?

Next time you’re explaining your work on the farm, or trying to think of a new blog post topic, remember to explain some of the simple things or ask your audience to make sure they understand what it is your discussing.

Another example of how communication is a two-way street.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” — Epictetus

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  1. I’ve head people make speculations about what the variety signs in fields mean; usually I just explain that there are lots of different types of seeds out there that grow into corn that has different strengths and weaknesses. I’ve even compared research plots to finding the right variety of flower for a garden. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the analogy or vocab that fits the listeners’ experience and understanding.

    Ag doesn’t have to be confusing or difficult to understand. It just takes patience and understanding, to work alongside people who aren’t as exposed to it as we are. Great post, Ryan! Thanks so much for writing it.

  2. I wonder if by signs, especially in the dairy part of Illinois, they mean farm signs like the one we have in front of our dairy with Dean Foods on it and the farm name?
    Maybe I should snap a picture of the sign and ask people.

  3. Your blog post just reminded me of the song “Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign” by the Five Man Electrical Band….it is about 40 years ago that it became popular but if you listen to it reminds of now. Too many signs and/or people cannot read or the signs are confusing 🙂

  4. Oh how true! We were friends with a couple from Florida. They owned a small orange grove. My husband tried to explain that he was a “farm drainage contractor” from Ohio. They didn’t understand what that was. The only “tile” they knew was the tile used to decorate homes, such as floor tile or bathroom wall tile. Boy, were they surprised when they learned that farm tile is long plastic tubes put under ground to drain farm fields. They couldn’t imagine putting floor tile, wall tile, etc. under ground.

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