“I live in farm country. I know how things are done” is an actual quote from a real person who was sharing anti-livestock propaganda on social media. This individual is not and has never been involved in agriculture. Yet, because they live in a rural community, they think they are an expert on farming. This is not the first time I have heard this argument, some people who grew up on a farm or spent time on a relative’s farm when they were young feel they understand and can pronounce judgment on modern agriculture.
These people can be more difficult to communicate with about agriculture than people who have lived in the city all their lives. City folks will readily admit they know nothing about farming, and this sometimes provides an opening to educate. On the contrary, the rural resident feels they are an expert and so are resistant to hearing anything different from someone who really knows. Their ag knowledge is decades out of date or based on their experience with one farming operation or on media misinformation.
Farming practices continually evolve and change. The way we raise crops and livestock today is much different than it was a decade ago, let alone 4 decades ago. Much of this change may not be visible to those not directly involved in production agriculture. Thus, this shows the importance of continuously communicating our story, not only to the urban population but also to our neighbors.
Farming operations need to have a community that understands what they do and how they benefit the local community and economy. A local population that does not see your farm as a threat to them is an ally when you go before a zoning committee or drainage board. I have driven through many small towns with boarded-up storefronts that have signs along the road reading “No Factory Farms” or “No Wind Farms.”
When your neighbors say they understand agriculture, don’t assume you are talking about the same kind of agriculture. Their image could be several decades out of date. The next time you encounter one of these so-called experts, invite them to lunch at your farm. Show them how you care for your animals and your land. Give them the opportunity to become real agricultural experts.
By Gary Truitt