TWO steps forward, one step back; agriculture is well versed in this dance move. Unfortunately, it only takes one loud voice belittling a farming method the person does not fully understand or agree with to create turmoil within our advocating communities and send us back toward where we just were.
Farmers and ranchers are usually some of the most educated people I know when it comes to their respective fields. These men and women dedicate their lives to understanding and improving their farms, ranches and ways of life.
They use agricultural practices that work best for their individual needs. Some of these skills have been learned in universities, while others have been honed and passed down through generations.
We are all familiar, by now, with the disconnect that exists between farm and fork. Many of us have been criticized in the media, online or in person for perceived errors in the way we farm and by people who are generations removed from what we do. Trying to increase the public's knowledge about what we do has been an uphill battle.
But what happens when the detractors are in our very own industry? What happens when the work farmers and ranchers do to dispel misinformation and rumors in the public are obliterated by another farmer attempting to perpetuate his or her own agenda? What about when they are too blinded by the emotion of their own beliefs?
Farmers and ranchers have some of the strongest opinions out there. We will never all agree on the "right" way to do anything, but there is a huge contrast between a difference of opinion and plain-old fear mongering by spreading untrue information.
Conversations about agriculture often include people using the title "farmer" as a false credential. While these people claim to farm for a living, they use the same fallacies and talking points as those who are generations removed from the farm — e.g., claiming that seed companies they have never interacted with are out to destroy them or that science can be bought and sold by donations and backroom handshakes.
It's human nature to follow our emotions. When we hear a "farmer" confirming our emotional beliefs, it's easy to lose sight of logic, despite what our common sense says.
To combat this emotion with just science and fact is tough. On the other hand, when emotion, scientific fact and real-life experience can be interwoven into a complete story, points of view can be altered.
By using our knowledge and experience as agriculturists, we can — and have been — lessening the disconnect that exists between our farms and consumers' forks.
However, when it comes to setting an example for farmers and ranchers who insist on loudly belittling their peers, it takes finesse.
Sometimes, this means letting our actions and outreach speak louder than our words. It's a little bit more complicated of a dance, but it's one we must master if we wish to continue our good work.
*Megan Brown is a blogger and sixth-generation rancher who raises Black Angus cattle in northern California. From 4-H as a child to FFA as a teen to receiving her bachelor's degree in agricultural business from California State University-Chico, agriculture has been Brown's lifelong passion. Read more on her website at www.thebeefjar.com, or contact her at [email protected]