Lessons from the sandbox…
We don’t always get our way, or need to.
Relationships matter more than who wins.
Polite and respectful communication goes the distance.
If we each give a little we gain a lot.
As a farmer who is truly interested in the discussions going on about food I tend to run into a lot of conversations I label as “he said, she said convos”. We all know this kind of conversation where there are two distinct sides both trying to do what they can to “win” the discussion by convincing the other they are wrong and in the end the only thing accomplished is the chasm between the two sides grows into an immense canyon of finger-pointing and name calling. What I am looking for is truly a two-way open honest conversation where in the end the differences are merely an insignificant dip and both “sides” of the discussion understand the other. Personally I have had a long road to get where I am in conversational skills, I was one of those who tried the “shouting louder” theory in hopes I would drown out the opposition and all that was gained in the end was a lot of work for no reward. I firmly believe that because we have twice as many listening devices attached to our heads than speaking devices we should spend a bit more time listening than talking. Amazingly when we do listen more we can respond more effectively to the honest concerns and questions from others.
Just last week I had the pleasure of a food conversation I enjoyed. My seatmate on a flight to Chicago from San Francisco had a great discussion that lasted nearly the full length of the three and a half hour flight. The conversation started with my seatmate announcing she definitely was in tune personally with “The Omnivore’s Dilemma“. At first I had the thought “oh no here we go again” however decided lets see where it goes. We talked antibiotics, hormones, fast food, food portions and regulations, all fighting topics in many of today’s food conversations. However our conversation was different, it was heartfelt and honest, we both had similar yet different passions and in the end parted both better off having met the other. I learned that she truly was passionate about food and how it comes to our plates however she also understands the farmers perspective of having to make a profit to survive. I understood her passion for healthy food and together we believe strongly in choice and that more often than not the healthy choices truly are not proliferate enough.
This week I have the privilege of heading to New York City for the first time in my life. My mission is to attend the NYC portion of the “Food Dialogues” being put together by the US Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance. I am excited that there is something being done to allow for more open conversations in the discussions about food. Is it perfect? Probably not, and truly perfection is somewhat unattainable this early in the conversation. Have mistakes and miscues happened in the past? Yes however that milk was spilled a long time ago and I honestly think we really need to focus all of our energy on moving forward together and not moving backwards apart. So together let’s keep an open mind going in and have a great conversation about the food we eat and all the things that come up from fork to farm.Disclaimer: I am attending the town hall on behalf of the Agchat Foundation in partnership with USFRA to report on the townhall live using Twitter. Follow my updates using the #FoodD hash tag.
Agriculture needs anyone who has ever been touched by food production to become Agvocates. So basically if you eat you’re automatically included. Ag needs people to start talking and asking questions with an Open Mind, we also need those questions received and answered with an Open Mind. There is a great story behind how food reaches the plate that is not being told enough. Sure we have some in Agriculture starting to speak up and the people enjoying food asking questions however there needs to be one prerequisite to these conversations; an Open Mind.
You might ask; why keep repeating the need for an Open Mind? Too often I have seen the questions being asked of agriculture based on documentaries or books. The thing we need to remember is first and foremost the books and movies need to sell and to sell can stretch the truth and sensationalize it to the point it becomes a seller. Do not get me wrong there are great starting points for questions and conversations that come from these works. However the questions need thought of with an Open Mind because the answer may be different than what one wants to hear and contradict the book or movie.
On the other side of the coin farmers, ranchers and others in the food chain need to welcome the questions and answer them with Open Minds. Too often I see or hear things become polarized from the word go because we in Agriculture have grown weary of people and groups like Oprah, Michael Pollan and HSUS thought of as experts on farming and animal care. Oprah is a television host, and Pollan is a journalist and author who do raise good points however must also add the fluff so their products sell. HSUS is a nonprofit business that derives a major part of their income from donations and to get those donations needs to sensationalize their story and move people to send money. We in Agriculture need to have Open Minds when we answer questions formed from the works of those who can often stretch the truth. As agriculturists we should embrace the fact that those who buy the food that comes from our toils are interested in how and why we do what we do.
So why does Agriculture need YOU?
Because I firmly believe “Conversations are King!” It takes CONVERSATIONS to build RELATIONSHIPS that lead to TRUST (each belief can still differ). If farmers and ranchers along with those enjoying the end products of their toil can build relationships based on Conversations many questions will naturally be answered. Those in Agriculture and those buying the products that result from agriculture need to remember to not be preachy and seem better than the other. I have been guilty of preaching before and try to catch myself before doing it. If there is one thing I have learned you truly learn who is listening and who your audience is with engaging conversations not just preaching. I can’t remember how many times I have had conversations with people I have no Idea that are following me through various social platforms or by actively searching out a conversation to join.
Do I think only “farmers or ranchers” can tell “Ag’s” story?
NO, we need everyone to tell the great story of Agriculture.
Do I think only “farmers or ranchers” can tell “farmers or ranchers” individual stories?
YES, just like only someone like a Mom can tell a Mom’s story or only a Doctor can tell a Doctor’s story because they are individual stories.
Collectively the individual stories we tell will shape Agriculture’s story.
The work that is behind putting food on our plates makes a great story to tell and WE ALL need to remember WE need ALL the help WE can get to tell it.
We need you to tell your story because we all eat and are touched in some way by agriculture everyday.
Welcome to “TEAM AG”!