The holiday season seems to bring out people’s more generous spirit. Sure, we’re busy splurging on indulgent desserts and foods, spoiling our loved ones with gifts, and probably even buying ourselves some extra goodies. But it’s also the most giving time of the year. People are making donations to charities, adopting families for Christmas, and giving extra time. And that’s probably one of the reasons the season is so magical.
But have you ever noticed that many agriculture companies do these types of benevolent programs year round? So many of them are investing and giving back to the farm community regularly.
These are the same companies vilified by activists and media as so-called “big ag.” You can see them set up at the National FFA Convention & Expo or the Farm Progress Show, in hopes of better understanding the needs of growers and to listen to industry concerns. These companies give of both their time and their money, working to connect on a personal level with farmers and with young people in agriculture.
Take Bayer’s Farm for Good sweepstakes as an example. Bayer randomly picks row-crop farmers and allows them to direct a $5,000 donation to the charity of their choice. In 2019, Bayer payed out $50,000 to various charities and organizations chosen by farmers. The organizations included local Girl Scouts groups to local school systems.
The company also has the Bayer USA Foundation, which supports STEM education and workforce development. They also work on environmental initiatives and expanding social services. Personally, I’ve been impressed by Bayer’s recent efforts to open the conversation about mental health among farmers, a group with rising numbers of suicide. (Full disclosure: I worked with Bayer to promote these efforts.)
Add in Bayer’s backing of 4-H National Youth Science Day, the effort to provide hands-on science experiences to children, and its funding for Luke Bryan’s annual donation-laden Farm Tour, and there’s a lot to get behind with this company.
Tractor Supply Co. is another great example. TSC regularly spearheads campaigns supporting FFA and 4-H. Over the year, the company raises awareness about the youth organizations’ importance by holding nationwide contests and raising scholarship money. TSC recognizes that FFA and 4-H are growing future leaders. And it understands the importance of — quite literally — investing in our future. (Full disclosure: TSC has compensated me for helping them promote FFA-related endeavors.)
Syngenta has made similar contributions to FFA. The company donated $5 for every person registering at its Grow More Experience and Golden Harvest Agronomy in Action sites. The campaign raised over $16,000. And the money supported FFA chapters local to each event.
Of course, throwing money around isn’t the only way these companies give back.
Consider BASF’s pollinator efforts. The company has taken a keen interest in supporting pollinate health through funding research. But it also launched the #MonarchChallenge, through which they’ve done work educating farmers and stakeholders on how to utilize land in a pollinator-friendly way. And BASF gives free milkweed — a favorite of Monarch butterflies — to farmers, golf courses, and others.
I could go on and on. The message is clear: These “big ag” companies are serious about being good corporate citizens. Sure, these activities help the companies generate some good press. But the long-term commitment of these companies suggests they’re in it for more than headlines. And there are countless people within the industry benefiting from these programs. I’m sure there isn’t an FFA chapter that would reject the money or say it doesn’t help. So before we condemn a “big ag” company, it’s important to look at the whole picture.
And I would challenge anyone to look closely at those companies that act holier-than-thou when marketing their products (we all know the kinds I’m talking about). The irony is that these are the very organizations that target and attack “big ag.” Do they have charitable endeavors? Do they have foundations? Do they show up to support FFA? Do they meet with farmers at trade shows and conventions? You might be surprised to find them lacking.
So cheers to the giving season! And cheers to the agriculture companies working year round investing in our farm communities.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.