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Does The Message or The Messenger Matter More?

February 27, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last couple of days immersed in the world of agriculture meetings, fellow “agnerds” and people from all corners of agriculture converged on San Antonio Texas for a large trade show called Commodity Classic.

I “don’t belong” here. I don’t have thousands of acres, don’t raise enough corn to “matter”, don’t raise soybeans, and really am as far opposite from commodities as one can be. With several friends attending, however, it’s a big deal in the ag world.

I’m in San Antonio for a board meeting with the AgChat Foundation. As a non-profit organization, it’s heavily dependent on volunteers to make things run and, no bones about it, donations to help it happen. From the beginning, the AgChat Foundation has been about helping farmers tell what’s happening on their farms, not saying “these are our talking points we want you to say.”

I’ve seen often online comments to the effect of “you can’t believe <that person/group/study> look where their money comes from. We are invested in the AgChat foundation but it  doesn’t change who we are. Being surrounded by what many would condemn as “big ag” doesn’t change what I do. We’re still different.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the last four years not one time has anyone said I can’t talk about rabbits, heritage breeds, etc. It’s opened doors that need opened. I talked last night with a fellow board member, a potato farmer who sells to a potato chip market as well as red potatoes seen at the grocery store. I learned a little about varieties of potatoes – something I don’t deal with – and we even mentioned the heritage purple and Yukon Gold varieties.

There’s common ground in food and agriculture if we want to find it. There’s a whole host of division if we want it. I could say “we’re too different I’m not talking to them”. That results, too often, in larger operations dismissing niches as too small to deal with. And the nasty comment exchange begins. The whole thing with AgChat is we all have stories. The large potato farmer, the popcorn farmer, the fruit farmer, the grass seed farmer, the organic dairy farmers and the poultry and rabbit farmer all have something to share about what we do.When we get or hear of a new tool sometimes it’s hard to find how to use it effectively.

AgChat was started to help farmers learn to use social media effectively. Who helps doesn’t change what happens on those farms, so can’t change the story.

Why is it we can put our noses into what people do in their bedrooms and yet judge what’s in their kitchen? How do we truly find equality to co-exist if we can’t find enough common ground to support ALL food choices? Networking, learning from each other is an opportunity we shouldn’t pass up.

All consumers have choices what they buy this weekend at the grocery store. With that, all types of farmers are needed to fill that. Farmers do listen – more nonGMO corn will be planted this year because that is what consumers want and have said they will pay for.

Taking part in an organization, a conversation or sharing a meal with people that do things differently, or do different things, is an opportunity to share what we do, learn what they do and come away better for it.

Often we can be included, or not, as a result of our own mindset. If we limit that, we are the only ones to pay the price when “no one understands us.”

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