“No matter where they are in the world, farmers are farmers.”
– Dr. T Pearse Lyons, Alltech’s 2014 Global Beef & Dairy Conference in Deauville, Normandy, France
Farmers from across the globe, no matter their style of farming or type of end product, size of operation or amount of income, they’re all in the same business of farming. These are the food, fiber and fuel producers that contribute to demands for a local, regional, national and/or global system. We should proud of that fact and share it.
We also have to come to terms with the fact that in most developed nations, agriculturalists are a minority of the population and are likely to remain as such in the foreseeable future. In countries like the United States, those individuals involved in production agriculture, make up only 2% of the population. That’s 2 people out of every 100. What about the other 98%? What happens when they’re not involved in agriculture? How can we help them to become involved?
David Butler put this in perspective during the Alltech Global Beef & Dairy meetings during my trip to Normandy, France earlier this year. Today, we’re dealing with a gap between urban populations and those people who produce our food. This has been described as a gap in communication, generations, and geographies. But more importantly, it may be an experience gap. It’s up to those 2 people out of every 100 do contribute their part in correcting that gap.
David challenged those 2 people who are involved in agriculture to reach out and each connect with 49 others and invite them to learn more about our farms and ranches. If we each accepted that challenge, imagine the difference that could be made.
49 may seem like a large number, but once you begin considering it, 49 is actually a tangible number.
- For many of us in small towns, there may only be 196 (49×4) people in your town.
- In the church I grew up attending, there were only 98 people (49×2).
- Meet a person from each of the other 49 states. You’re there!
- Many of you may sit down in a classroom with 25 other people; you’re half way there!
- If you only reach out to one person each week throughout the year, and even miss a month, you’ll have your 49.
We always talk about the need for advocacy in agriculture and the need to reach outside the choir. But how many folks are doing that? Here’s your place to start.
Social media will be our secret weapon in this. We have always had opportunities to join in conversations within our communities, join in local festivities, invite grade school classes for a farm tour and meet with customers at the grocer meat counter. But today, social media opens up the rest of the world for this opportunity.
People are on social media to connect with friends and make new ones through other people they meet. They’re not on social media to be educated or lectured to. They’re there to connect with people.
We cannot try and combat the negative messages from our detractors. We’ll lose and fatigue our audiences if we continue to fight one another with facts, figures and science. We can’t try and outnumber the negative messages. It’s seen as industry campaigns and we’ll fatigue our audiences. Some people will always thrive for negativity, but eventually they will grow tired of it. What we need, is better communication. Building relationships, being people, connecting over mutual interests, networking, and sharing our stories based on experience. That will be how social media can be used as our secret weapon.
I challenge you… David Butler challenged us all that day during his presentation. The agriculture community will not be growing larger in developed nations. We can’t afford to be fighting each other. As Dr. Lyons noted, farmers are all farmers. All in it for the same mission of feeding people.
Your challenge is to find those 49 people to connect with. Share your story, build those relationships, so that when the time comes, they have a person to ask questions about that abuse scene they saw on television and online. Write that down. 49 people. Choose a platform where you’ll focus your attention – social media, blogs, community events – and start acting on that plan.
Whether it takes you a year, finding one new person a week, or if it takes you only one community event, find those 49 people to connect with. Share your story and share the experience of agriculture with those who may not ever have had the opportunity to before.