Sometimes Agriculture Has Good Intentions…
The agriculture industry is full of good intentions in terms of lessening the rural/urban divide, well, at least we think we are. Ag hosts field days, ag in the classroom, ag literacy events, all in the name of education. Farmers and ranchers are urged to share their stories with their urban counterparts. We open our barn doors and ranch gates offering our non rural peers a glimpse into our way of life. But what does agriculture do to urge farmers and ranchers to learn about our urban counterparts? What does agriculture do to educate ourselves about our urban peers? How do we glimpse into their lives? Why isn’t an effort being made to make this a two way street?
Sure, agriculture talks about consumer demand and market trends but these are faceless entities, void of any personal connection. Just as the farmer or rancher in our urban peer’s mind might be from American Gothic or a John Wayne movie, a caricature of the real thing. When agriculture talks about “consumer” we aren’t picturing actual living and working people, we see a group that needs to be taught, needs to be educated.
Agriculture loves to claim our urban peers and counterparts are out of touch with us. But perhaps, agriculture being the minority (less than 2% of our populations works in production agriculture), we are out of touch with the majority? What if agriculture is so cloistered within our own culture we forget there is a much bigger world out there? Often the only time agriculturists travel is for industry events, to talk to other industry people about industry things. Living and working in the agricultural world can be very sheltered experience.
If agriculture truly wants to connect, if we truly want to share our way of life we need to realize it is a two way street. We are not entitled to demand everyone learn about us without offering to do the same, simply because we grow food, fuel and fiber for them. We need to see value in all work done to support the society we live in.
I believe it’s time agriculture seeks out an Urban Literacy week. It’s time we take the same responsibility we demand of our consumers; learn about their way of life, form an emotional connection. It’s time we treat our urban peers with the respect and attention we demand. Perhaps it’s time for us to be educated? I urge those of you in agriculture reading this, join me in being mindful of our urban counterparts? Ask them questions about their way of life, their struggles, their concerns. Be less interested in forcing your experiences on them. Work on connecting over issues we share, not what divides us.