By Mike Barnett
When it comes to new machinery, new cropping methods or new herbicides and pesticides, farmers and ranchers are on top of their game.
No doubt that’s why American agriculture is the most progressive in the world.
Not so much, though, when it comes to communicating. We have work to do. Farmers and ranchers have talked about “educating” the public for all of my 30-year career in Farm Bureau.
Truth. The public doesn’t want to be “educated.” They want answers. To their concerns about food. How you grow it. And what you do to ensure their family’s safety.
Sure, we’ve made progress. But the same messages have been repeated for three decades. Not that they are bad messages. There’s truth to them all.
It’s time to switch gears. Sometimes the tried and true gets old and tired.
Below are five messages and strategies agriculture needs to change. And how to change them.
- Safe, wholesome and affordable food. Quit talking about it. People don’t want good news. Bad news sells. Talk about famine, pestilence and food that makes you sick. That’s what you’ll have if American farmers go out of business.
- Don’t attack food activists. Embrace them instead. Speak about how going back to 40 acres and a mule will make life much more expensive for consumers. And much more profitable for farmers. The few that survive, anyway.
- Feeding a hungry world. Consumers don’t care. Research verifies it. Think good old USA. Demonstrate American farms are hard at work. Feeding American families.
- Farmers are the original environmentalists. That may be true. But consumers don’t believe it. Talk about technology. And how it allows you to feed more American families (see above). And oh, by the way, farmers are using much less pesticides and fertilizers and making the environment better for everyone because of it.
- “I’m a farmer and I’ll tell you what you need to know about food and you need to believe it because I know what I’m talking about.” That’s so old school. Consumers are going to question you about how their food is grown. Better get used to it. Because it’s a trend that’s not going away.
So there you have it.
Sure, I’ve been a bit facetious. It’s simply to make a point.
Change. We practice it daily on our operations. Let’s practice it off the farm as well. It’s time to quit “educating.” And start “communicating.”