Being invisible has always been something people thought was cool. In 1897, H.G. Wells Published The Invisible Man, a science fiction novel that is still read today. Almost a half century later, J.R.R Tolkien used a magic ring to make people invisible. Lamont Cranston used invisibility to fight crime in the radio series The Shadow. Most recently, Harry Potter hid under an invisibility cloak. While being invisible may have certain advantages, it is not something that serves agriculture well.
This past week while attending the Fort Wayne Farm Show, I saw an example of farmers trying to be invisible and succeeding rather well. It took place right in front of my broadcast location on the show floor. A young female reporter from a Fort Wayne television station was set up with her camera trying to interview farmers. For a period of 45 minutes, she stood there and, in a perky and upbeat manner, asked passing farmers if they would talk with her on camera about agriculture.
To her frustration and my amazement, nobody would. I would estimate that well over 100 people walked by her location and every person they asked refused to stop and talk. “No thanks” and “I don’t have anything to say” were typical of the responses she got when she got a response at all. These are the same folks who at the coffee shop or the next Farm Bureau meeting will gripe that consumers don’t understand agriculture and don’t appreciate what farmers do or how they raise their crops or care for their livestock.
Yet, here was a local media organization begging them for a few minutes of air time to tell their stories. Ironically, about 50 yards from the stop where the reporter was standing was the Farm Bureau booth which had a large banner reading “Find Your Voice.” — obviously a message that still needs to be heard.
Talking with a camera or microphone in front of you is not something with which many people are comfortable, and most farmers, in particular, are not comfortable drawing attention to themselves or their operations. Yet, it is becoming a necessity today. With activist groups targeting production agriculture, it is vital that producers make their voices heard. While farm groups and hired PR organizations can do this work, a 30-second soundbite on local TV or quote in a newspaper story by a farmer can be far more believable and effective.
Being invisible may be enjoyable, but it is a luxury farmers can no longer afford. While talking to the media or speaking to a group may be outside your comfort zone, there are many programs to help you take the first step. Stop being invisible and speak out for your farm and your way of life.
By Gary Truitt