My brothers are a little annoyed at me right now. Saturday morning we’ll be up bright and early starting the tractors and getting them ready. But instead of driving them out to a field in the middle of nowhere, we’re taking them to downtown.
That’s because I signed us up to participate in our town’s grand parade!
Our town always has the Glad Peach Festival in August. Like so many other small towns across the United States, we celebrate our community and its bounty. There are fireworks, a talent show, and yummy fair food. Of course, there’s also the grand parade. The parade usually features area “royalty,” business floats, and firetrucks. There’s also a collection of antique tractors.
We participated a couple years ago for the first time. A neighbor asked if we would showcase some of our much bigger equipment in the parade. Dad thought it was a fun idea and readily agreed. When we arrived with our John Deere 9400 and John Deere 9220 tractors, we stood out a little bit. The other tractors were antiques and quite small. The entry ahead of us kept reminding my brother not to run him over. At the end of the parade we parked along the road and allowed the small children to take photos and sit inside the cab.
I thought it was a good event, and I’m enthusiastic about participating again.
But my brothers were not. There were grumbles and protests when I originally mentioned the idea. Some of them more legitimate (say, what if a little kid runs out in front of the tractor?) than others (um, then we’re going to have to wash and wax the tractors!). But I signed us up anyway and told the guys to clean up the equipment.
I figure this is just one small way for us to connect with consumers and support our community.
I recognize that participating in a local parade isn’t going to change the world. We won’t change anyone’s minds about bioengineered foods. We won’t dispel the notion that farmers live life high on government subsidies. We won’t have an opportunity to share our commitment to being environmental stewards.
But I’m willing to bet that a number of those children will remember the tractors and think farming is cool. Heck, maybe it will even leave a positive impression on their parents.
We should all take opportunities to engage with our communities and participate in local activities. If we want people to trust us, listen to us, and learn from us, we need to first get to know them. We need to be present and show up. We need to develop ties with our neighbors and forms connections.
I encourage you to find ways to do this too. Sign up for your local parade. Donate fresh produce to the local bake sale. Volunteer at the local school. Just get out there!
Sometimes farmers like to hide in their tractor cabs, barns, or animal pens. But we can’t do that anymore. We have to promote ourselves and our industry. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated or hard. Just do it.
Besides, you know you’ll love it when that little boy gets excited to have his picture taken with a real life farmer!!
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.