The reason we do this

The reason we do this
A walk with the Coys

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Defining the "Image" of Agriculture

How should Farm Bureau engage farmer/rancher members, representing all types and kinds of operations (i.e. conventional, organic, large, small and niche markets), to work together to better promote a more positive image of agriculture?

This is one of the questions for Ohio Farm Bureau's annual discussion meet, hosted by the Young Agricultural Professionals committee.  I love the competition and love discussing the questions.  So, I thought for my next 5 blogs, I would focus on these topics.  If you would like more information on the discussion meet or other Young Farmer activities supported by the Ohio Farm Bureau, try here (OFBF YAP Page).

So, as all good "researchers" do, when I have a question I go straight to the academic center of our modern world, Google. (there is sarcasm and truth in that statement).  And I searched:
"working together small large farms promote agriculture". I saved it.. because it seemed like the most likely order that someone might type key words in if they were to look this up.  Not too surprisingly, it didn't come back with very many useful links. About 10 down or so, after school meal programs and other titles that did not grab my attention; I found the blog  I knew must be out there..and it dealt with the heart of the matter... well the two hearts of the matter I guess.  Globalization and Food Security are both factors in this whole "positive image" that we are trying to work on.

In, "The food conundrum: Can small farmers and big business work together to solve the world food crisis? " the issue is discussed.  The author raises two very thought provoking questions: "Do we have a global food crisis so urgent that small farmers need to be pushed to one side? and  Will increasing production alone solve the problem of hunger?" Personally after looking at these questions, and then reading the one originally stated, it reminds me that I think we are looking at this all wrong.

I personally feel that if it ever comes a time when we need to push any segment of food production to one side, then we will have lost our balance.. much like a delicate ecosystem. "‘Smallholder farming, which has been long neglected, is not a single solution, but an important component of both hunger and poverty reduction’. "

The question of "image" itself demeans the conceptual notion of farming and agriculture.  By that I mean, instead of working on the positive "image" of agriculture, perhaps we just need to keep improving agriculture's role in society. Our role in society was put on display this year during the superbowl advertisement by Dodge.

Why do you think the super bowl advertisement by Dodge was such a hit amongst non-farmers and farmers alike?  The ad has (now 3 days after it aired)  4.1 million views and won the "ADBOWL" while it finished third in USA TODAY's likability Ad Meter, behind the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale colt commercial and the Tide "Miracle Stain" spot.(Pillar, What actual Farmers thought..)  In his article about the ADBOWL, Marcucci reported: "An iconic radio voice took the cake, as Dodge Ram’s “Farmer” spot with Paul Harvey as the v/o was the highest-rated commercial during Super Bowl and wins the ADBOWL XLVII (video) ."

I think the message was a hit because it was coming from a seemingly unrelated entity; it was genuine.

Dodge's message spoke to the deep rooted love and respect we have for farmers.  Instead of wasting time and energy on an "image", why don't we spend more time on working together, supporting one another and involving as many people as we can, so we can focus on assessing the food security of our people and those of our allies.  When we work together, as we have been, then our image takes care of itself.  Dodge has tugged at the heartstrings of most of America with that commercial, and we thank them.

When the message comes from Monsanto or another larger agricultural supply corporation, the message is perceived as unauthentic.  If a politician praises agriculture it can give the perception of hidden motives.  If the message comes from a farmer, it is often received by the viewer as authentic and honest.  But Dodge seems to have, for now, trumped even us, as farmers, with its Super Bowl Commercial this year, "God Made a Farmer"  So Why all of the love for farmers?

Why did Dodge name 2013  "The year of the Farmer" ? Why do people treat farmers with so much respect? Why do little children treat us as if we are super heroes? 

This is because our actions speak louder than our words.  WE ARE APPRECIATED and the current "image" of agriculture is positive.  If we, as farmers and stewards of this land continue to do the Lord's work then the truth is promoted by our actions.  The good works we do in our communities, the good food we provide our nation and world, and the land we leave for the future generations speaks for itself.

How can we band together and work together into the future?  I don't have one single answer for this, but if we can answer this, then we can solve any of the other questions posed in this entry.  Michele Payne-Knoper discussed this at length in her excellent blog "Cause Matters Corp, Connecting Gate to Plate".  She asked: Can Agriculture Lead into the Future?, and in this she addresses some areas that we will need to address down the proverbial, 4th dimensional road:

"*Why is it so very easy for agriculture to be divided and conquered?
*Does agriculture care enough to speak out proactively?
*Is it possible that we try to fix things that aren’t broken?
*Do we sometimes get so hung up on bringing recognition to farmers that we lose the millions  of others responsible for food, fuel, feed and fiber?
*Are we so stubborn that we sometimes lose sight of the big picture?"

Ok, So now that I have started the ball rolling, how would you answer this question?  Join the conversation at "Ohio's Advisory Council" Facebook Group.

To refresh you, as the start of this blog seems SO long ago, here is the question again:

How should Farm Bureau engage farmer/rancher members, representing all types and kinds of operations (i.e. conventional, organic, large, small and niche markets), to work together to better promote a more positive image of agriculture?

Other related Links:

HLN News for "So God made a Farmer"

Mixed Reviews

What actual farmers thought

View the add to give back to FFA

Can Small Farmers work together with Big Business?


Cause Matters