The Planted Row: Consider a different kind of resolution

Farm Forum

Most New Year’s resolutions are about self-improvement, and like most people I have a few. For starters, I need to do a few of what my grandfather called “pushbacks,” an unpleasant activity that consists of pushing back away from the dinner table, preferably before dessert arrives. I’d also like to devote more time to my children. If I’m really ambitious, I’ll tackle a home improvement project or two.

I think that sticking to these resolutions will help me become a better person and will benefit my family, but the impact on my community is harder to determine. However, after reading the article that appears on the front page of this paper, I’m starting to think about a resolution that will affect the world around me, and I’m going to ask you to consider it, too.

In recent years, who has controlled the conversation about agriculture?

For people who have lived their entire lives here in the Corn Belt, this might be a difficult question to answer. After all, very few people in this part of the country lack some direct connection to agriculture. Most of us know the importance of production ag, and we rarely hear people speaking out against modern farming technology and techniques.

My father is both a farmer and a county Extension agent (a juggling act he could never pull off without the hard work and dedication of his family), so I grew up listening to his lectures about what would happen if the rest of the country didn’t wake up and understand the importance of supporting farmers. For a long time, I heard only one side of the debate.

Later, I fell in love with and married a woman from a wealthy suburb just north of New York City. You can’t begin to imagine the culture wars in my house. I knew there was going to be trouble when my wife, Renee, told me she didn’t eat very much beef because she read an article about all the hormones and other undesirable chemicals that end up in the meat. She still eats the occasional hamburger, but she won’t eat steaks or the roast beef I like to cook. (Maybe she just doesn’t like my cooking.) She also makes sure to buy hormone free milk, and if it says “organic” on the label, she automatically thinks it’s better. Don’t even get me started on her views about high-fructose corn syrup.

My arguments about how glyphosate and GMO crops help conserve soil through reduced tillage and help make our food safer through reduced pesticide applications make no headway with her. All she knows is what she’s heard from the opponents of production agriculture. She has never lived on a farm, and she has no understanding of the challenges involved with producing our food.

When I read the article on the front page of today’s paper, I realized I haven’t been the kind of advocate for ag that I should be. I haven’t even convinced my own wife! My new resolution is to increase Renee’s understanding of the realities of modern farming. Folks, I have my work cut out for me.

We all do.

Where Renee is from, there are millions of people who share her views. If these people are going to change their minds, they need to truly understand the story of agriculture, and that’s only going to happen if we tell it.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a reporter call a farmer for an interview only to have the farmer refuse to talk because he didn’t want his name in the paper or to seem like he is more successful than his neighbors.

If you are involved in ag, then your story is a part of agriculture’s story, and we all need to hear it, but we can only hear it if you tell it.

So, I’m asking you to take a little time to tell your story. Consider writing about your life and work on social media like Facebook and Twitter, making Youtube videos, inviting school groups and others to tour your farm or ranch, or taking the time to speak honestly with any reporter who happens to call.

At the very least, if you happen to see your neighbor’s name in the paper, cut him some slack. You might even give him a pat on the back for helping to tell our story.