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Bridging the rural-urban divide with words

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There is a clear division between those who live rurally and those who live in urban areas. From misunderstandings of each other’s lifestyle choices to differing political values, both communities are often on the far opposite ends of the spectrum. This can make it hard to truly understand each other and communicate, yet this is where intercultural communication is needed most.

Thankfully, aside from having an agriculture degree, I also majored in ethnic studies during my undergraduate years. This allowed me to expand my way of thinking and improve my understanding of how society and agriculture coincide with each other by taking a wide variety of social and behavioral science classes. One of these was a communications class called intercultural communication.

At its heart, intercultural communication is the art of making the weird sound normal and where the normal may sound weird. In other words, what may seem normal to you might be weird to other people. What may seem normal to those people may seem weird to you.

At the end of the day, our experiences with weird and normal are relative to our upbringing and what we are used to. The art is in the ability to communicate your “weird” to sound normal to them and improve your understanding so their “weird” doesn’t seem so weird to you anymore.

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Image by VLADGRIN, Shutterstock

For people who live in urban areas, their understanding of food science or animal welfare tends to be much different than those who live rurally. For those who live rurally, their understanding of social and environmental issues may be far different than those who live urban. People who live suburban lifestyles are not exempt from this conversation either.

For those who live rurally, it is important to be patient with people when they have misconceptions about agriculture. Think of ways to explain a certain concept in a way that will make sense to them (avoiding jargon) and understand where their concerns come from. Remind yourself that you are used to seeing food production right before your eyes and that not everyone can do that. Some people only know what they’ve seen in the media.

If you want urban-dwelling people to understand rural and agricultural lifestyles better, do it carefully and with the intention to educate — not belittle. For those who live in urban areas, take a chance to learn from the scientists and growers who contribute to your food. You’ll find there are people out there who are willing to educate and share their knowledge.

Both sides need to do better at communicating each other’s lifestyles and their components. Both sides don’t always have to agree with each other but both should be able to have civil conversations despite their differences. When this happens, everyone learns and more can be accomplished. We all rely on each other and we all rely on agriculture — imagine what the future of agriculture could be if we all communicate and work toward a common goal.

Misconceptions about food science and the agricultural industry shouldn’t be met with hostility or mean words — that doesn’t solve anything. It should be met with education. Both sides can learn a lot from each other.


An FFA alum, Saul Reyes is a student at California State University-Chico and is double majoring in plant and soil science and multicultural and gender studies, while minoring in intersectional Chicanx/Latinx studies and public relations. He can be found on Twitter @sreyes710.

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