We appear to be living in an era where issues are increasingly more divisive and polarizing, regardless of whether you’re referring to politics, food or the way we raise animals and crops. Myths and misinformation are surfacing everywhere we turn, including on social media, in the news media and even sometimes in our own families.
As farmers who produce safe and affordable food here in the Northeast, we need to rise above this divisiveness and bridge the gaps between urban and rural, consumer and farmer, and even occasionally farmer and farmer, to identify common ties that bind us all.
In agriculture, we’re making a conscious effort to learn more about consumer perceptions, as we strive to strengthen consumer trust and identify what consumers are looking for in the marketplace. Sometimes it can be challenging to make changes that satisfy all of society’s rapidly changing needs, but it can also present us with opportunities as well.
For example, many consumers tell us they want locally grown food. They say they like knowing where their food comes from and purchasing food from a trustworthy farmer. I know many local and trustworthy farmers who are growing and producing a variety of tasty, safe and fresh agricultural products. Meanwhile, it is also important to note that many of those trustworthy farmers also raise and grow high quality food that is sold in your supermarket, as opposed to a roadside stand.
Many buzzwords are associated with food production, including terms like conventional, local, sustainable and environmentally-friendly.These words can cause confusion with the public, and even occasional friction within our industry.
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau believes there is room for everyone in agriculture. If there are farmers out there willing and able to meet specific consumer needs, it’s a win for consumers and all of agriculture. At the same time, it can help farmers prosper and ensure opportunities for future generations.
As we move forward, the agriculture community needs to stick together. With farmers comprising less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, it is not in our best interest to disparage the production practices of another. We’re all farmers, and we’re all in this challenging industry together. Yes, we are passionate about what we do, including growing and producing food for our friends, our community, our state, our nation and even the world. We can have our own niches, but we must hold tight to the common tie of agriculture. At the end of the day, we’ll be a stronger industry if we can stand together as one.
As we do that, we need to remember to be inclusive of the next generation of agriculturalists, such as FFA and 4-H members, Collegiate Farm Bureau students, members of Young Farmer and Rancher groups, and our own sons and daughters. They are all our future.
Although it hasn’t always been easy, one of my greatest joys is having my sons work right beside me on the farm. They often challenge me to think a differently, look at new avenues for potential revenue and give me a fresh perspective. We are all better because of it.
We have to do more than just make room for these new farmers – we need to engage them and help them rise. Just because some of our new generation and even some of our seasoned folks, don’t necessarily fit the “traditional” or “conventional” mold of agriculture, it doesn’t mean we should leave them out.
As farmers, we expect change and often embrace it. So, instead of focusing on how we may have different approaches to growing and marketing food, we should recognize that we are all interested in producing high quality products that meet and exceed the expectations of consumers. When we stand together and are one with agriculture, there should be plenty of opportunities for all of us to thrive.