Farming has been at the heart of every civilization — it is a key factor that ensures its success. Drought, extreme weather, and natural predators to crops and livestock are problems that every farmer has had to deal with. However, now we face a new challenge — one that most farmers never imagined would exist. We now not only need to supply a growing population with a food supply, but we also have to convince that population that the food they are receiving is safe to eat.
Fear of the unknown is part of human nature. That being said, a generation ago, no one ever imagined that the source of our food would be categorized as “the unknown.” Unfortunately due to rapid urbanization and an even faster progression of technology, the average person doesn’t have a clue about where their food comes from or who grew it. That is big a problem.
The past couple of decades have led to a revolution of anti-farming campaigns that believe large companies are taking over the food supply and that farmers have no way out. Besides a rapid change in the way we grow food, we are now faced with an aging generation of farmers who have not been as comfortable communicating with the public over social media as our current generation is. Any time something changes and people “find out” about it rather than are told about it, they are suspicious. This is where most people think we have been hiding something from them, where in fact, as an industry, we neglected to educate the public on the change as this dynamic of naivety in our food has never existed. Unfortunately, most of our efforts in the past have been “too little too late.”
The next few years will be a very interesting time for young farmers. Kids who grew up using social media are now old enough to take over the farm and enter the industry. This means for the first time we have a demographic growing our food that will have the ability to communicate with their customers like never before. Our young farmers have a large responsibility placed on their shoulders, and it is up to them to be as innovative in the field as they are in their communications. We live in a globalized society, and the country and the city now interact on a daily basis even if that is on the opposite side of a cell phone hundreds of miles away.
People trust farmers, yet they feel like farmers are not the ones supplying their food. They think large companies own all of the farms and that the old-fashioned family farm no longer exists. It is up to the next generation to share their stories and show what it means to be a farmer in today’s modern age and the care that goes into producing the food needed to feed the people in the cities.
In the “Before The Plate” documentary, we feature a few young farmers. Some in the 30s with kids and some in their early 20s finishing up the degrees in agricultural science and business. This is the new generation that will be faced with the largest farming challenges we have seen to date. With an increasing push from the public to farm “the good old-fashioned way” we need to help them understand what it means to be a modern farmer, which will allow them to make educated decisions in the grocery store. We can only hope that future films such as “Before The Plate” can help make a big impact and start the ball rolling in the right direction for the new generation of young farmers.