What fuels human existence? Agriculture. There are over 550 million farms in the world today growing our food, fiber and products that we need to survive as humans. The existence of 7 billion people, soon to be 9 billion, is almost entirely dependent on the sector of farms, farmers and agribusinesses that we call agriculture. How many of you have ever made that connection before? — Greg Peterson, Kansas Farmer, TEDxMHK 2016

People are making that connection in 2016, but not necessarily in the manner we would like for them to.

How many times have you come across something online that inspired you to make drastic changes in your lifestyle? We’re talking sweeping changes to your beliefs or mindset in the way you do or consume materials based on a video, text, or image.

People do this every day by making changes to the way they eat and perceive modern agriculture practices based on watching documentary film projects such as Earthlings, Food Inc., Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and countless others available on video streaming sites and social media.

Food Inc. is the poster child for many who are against factory farming.
Food Inc. is the poster child for many who are against factory farming.

Activists are winning over hearts and minds each and every day using these methods. I frequently see comments along the lines of… “Once I saw/read [insert film, book name], I could no longer bear the thought of eating meat again.” I see this on a regular basis from bloggers, podcasters, athletes and influential voices in many circles.

My mind cannot wrap around the concept of watching a video or reading a book, taking it as gospel truth, and making such drastic changes as swearing off modern farming practices, changing to a vegan lifestyle and passionately campaigning for others to join the cause. I’ve tried thinking of an example in my life where I have made similar changes in response to something viewed online or read in a book, but fail come up with one.

I like to think we can be somewhat rational by doing a little investigation into a topic before making significant changes in response to an experience, but it appears that concept is lost on people today. Unfortunately, the references we often find on such topics usually reiterate the same information.

Turn to Google asking questions about GMO corn with toxic Monsanto pesticides or livestock antibiotics use in cruel factory farms. At the top of those search engine results, you will not find farmers talking about their experiences or academic institutions with information in an easy-to-consume format. No, you will find the same rhetoric from activist perspectives reinforcing negative perceptions and information that does not reflect true experiences in the field. That’s unfortunate.

When people share their belief in these horrible agriculture practices and passionately use that as reason behind their choice to be vegan/vegetarian in response to experiences like books, documentaries and online content… That hurts me.

Why can’t we make impacts on such a scale that result in drastic, significant changes in lifestyles and perceptions to help people support and learn more about modern agriculture in a positive manner?

As Greg stated in his TEDx presentation – Farmers are diverse. Agriculture is Diverse. That is something we have to truly understand and respect ourselves first. Then, we have to learn how to respect those who disagree with and want to fight us.

The required unified effort to address concerns about food and agriculture, on a scale that would be needed, will be very difficult to achieve. We have good momentum and people doing great things, but it’s still a long row to hoe.

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