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Ag advocacy: Don’t be afraid of the tough topics

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Chemicals, GMOs, regulations, hurt or help the planet? What is it exactly that farmers DO?!?

These are things that the average consumer might have some serious questions about. And as the “Farm Babe” on social media, I work hard to debunk myths surrounding our industry.

Besides agriculture, international travel is my other passion, and after traveling to 67 countries, it really puts things into perspective on just how much work goes into feed hundreds of millions of people and animals, including our pets. We are so fortunate in our first-world countries to have such a safe and abundant food supply that many often take for granted. When faced with problems, what are farmers’ biggest challenges? Why do we need chemicals and biotechnology, and what are the biggest misperceptions surrounding all this stuff?

Social media is really one of the best ways to reach people nowadays. As much as we might hate to admit it, celebrities and well-known online influencers really can have a huge impact on policy and perception surrounding our industry. Where is our voice as the farmer, and can we make a difference?

The answer can most certainly be YES!

But it’s up to us as an industry to strengthen these messages and connect with strong partners in urban areas outside of our industry to more effectively be heard. And one way I’ve found to do this is to not be afraid of the tough topics! This link is one example of this, which over time has reached nearly 14 million people on Facebook alone. Clearly, people appreciate transparency and to understand that the dose makes the poison; pesticides are applied at only a few ounces per acre!

Oftentimes people hear statements with no solid facts behind them. For example, “GMOs are drenched in chemicals!” is a myth I hear often. But it’s GMOs that often allow farmers to reduce chemical usage. I also hear a lot of environmental myths when it comes to caring for water or soil. Do farmers really use that much water? I won’t claim to always be an expert on major environmental issues, but it’s a hot enough topic to be heard around the world, even in a small town backyard across the ponds. Let’s debunk it or break it down — farmers today do so much more with less!

Let’s be transparent and celebrate advances; celebrate pesticides! Wait, that sounds totally weird right? But it’s true! Because it’s no different than spraying ourselves with chemicals like bug spray and sunblock, plants are just as living as we are and also need to be protected. We as living beings need medicine, food, nutrients … plants need that too! And pesticide application is overwhelmingly done responsibly and with greater and greater advances in biotechnology. It’s better living through chemistry — for ourselves and our crops. Explaining this in a way that the everyday consumer can understand is an important way to communicate ag science effectively.

» For a realistic look at Christmas tree farming, read this article

With Christmas around the corner I was curious to know what is sprayed on Christmas trees. A quick Google search unfortunately reveals fearmongering misinformation, and somewhere I’m sure there are Christmas tree farmers banging their heads against the wall. So what if we changed that narrative to be more proactive instead of reactive? Don’t be afraid of the tough topics! Explain what is used, when, why, and how. Share social media snippets, partner with influencers outside of agriculture with big loyal followings who might not otherwise think or talk about it. Help them understand science!

It’s safe to say that pretty much everyone loves visiting farms. People want to feel connected to where their food comes from. Celebrate our industry, build that connection, share and embrace the science behind our food. Humanity appreciates and depends on it and we have an impressive, beautiful story to tell.

 

Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
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