Indiana farmers today are having to do something they have never had to do before: defend their right to farm. One outspoken advocate for agriculture told a group of Hoosier producers this week just how to do that. Jolene Brown is a farm wife, is an expert on family business management, and also travels the nation telling farmers how to defend what they do every day. She told HAT that farmers today must realize that the public sees food and food production in a much different way, “Even the four food groups are different today. There is fast food, frozen food, dine out, and carry out.” She added the mindset and the expectations of consumers have changed, “There is a world out here that does not understand agriculture, and they get to decide if we stay in the business of agriculture because they vote. We have to understand that the value of what we do is in the eye of the purchaser not the producer.”
As a result, she suggests farmers must present what they do differently. Brown says she does not tell people she is a farmer, “I tell them I am in the consumer service and products industry. When they ask what I produce, I tell them the food for your family, the clothing on your back, and the fuel for your car — I am farmer.” Sometimes she will also add, “By the way, if you also use oxygen, I also produce that.”
She said today people don’t understand agriculture and, as a result, have a lot of questions that we in agriculture must be willing and able to answer, “Like the housewife who asks if cows who give skim milk drink more water, or the man who asks if farmers expect the government to bail them out every time there if a drought or flood.”
She told her audience at the Water Street Edge meeting in Indianapolis that farmers must become advocates for agriculture, “I tell these farmers and ranchers that if they are not going to do it, then they need to support those who are willing to stand up and speak up and speak out for agriculture.” She added social media requires that farm groups as well as farmers stay alert and respond quickly and honestly when a negative YouTube video goes on line. She also encouraged producers to be willing to engage with consumers in person, in one-on-one conversations.