I wish That You Could See
I wish that you could see so many things that are behind the scenes. While many of us in agriculture blog, show pictures on Instagram and videos on YouTube and participate on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest there’s another side. At the risk of calling some folks out I think maybe it’s worth a peek at this.
You see, often on social media channels I see people saying things that aren’t my experience at all. It might be that “Big ag” is eliminating the little farms, or large operations want to ban small ones. It’s not reality. In fact it’s so far from reality that I’ll have to saddle up my unicorn to ride out and show you.
There are images of these beautiful creatures, and some ongoing stories. What does unicorns have to do with anything? Much.
You see, this week marks the fifth trip I’ll be making to the AgChat Foundation conference. The first one, in Chicago, I attended feeling somewhat an outsider. I somewhat believed that stuff people say. Internet isn’t real right?
Only it is. I met people, face to face, who have become friends. People who have taught me much, and laughed along the way. Subsequent conferences in Nashville, Kansas City and Charlotte grew and changes and this year I think will be the biggest and best yet.
As I start making preparations to leave operations in capable hands for a few days, it brings home that over the last few years going to an AgChat event was the only time away. It’s a chance to meet new people, connect with names I see on social media and greet those friends that are very much real.
Five years ago when I said I raised rabbits some snickered. Some didn’t know anything about them, some liked eating them and some knew market rabbits were shown at fairs. A niche market then, and still a niche market today. It’s more than rabbits but there’s more than that to connect.
I wish you could see the respect that I see between large and small, organic and conventional management operators and others in agriculture that might not be on farms directly. We might be different, we might have a lot of different ways of doing things but we all have a goal of providing food choices in the absolute best way we possibly can.
This year we’ll have visitors not only from Canada and the US but Australia, and I’m not sure who is more excited about the meeting. Hostel memories will likely come back and remembering, again, cattle, hogs, chickens and crops are so very much the same. The struggles might be different, but often are the same. The earnest, honest desire to communicate with those far from our homes is real – I wish you could see that.
I wish you could have seen those who tear up at stories of our kids on the farm, and unfortunately for some, threats to those kids. I wish you could hear the voice describing a phone call that said they “were sorry for what was about to happen.” You want to talk fear? Threats?
That didn’t come from another farmer. It came from someone who doesn’t want you to be able to choose your food choices. It is a stumbling block in communication when we must decide whether you really want information or want to harm our family.
Those traveling to the conference have extra measures in place not to protect us from other farmers, but from those who don’t want us to exist for whatever reason. Misinformation abounds. And that is what is pulling over 100 people from around the world to find better ways to get through on this imperfect medium that is social media.
I don’t do this to sell more rabbits, although that would be nice too. I don’t do it for marketing as honestly it would be a dismal failure for that. I do it so that you the reader, and those on social media outlets, have a connection with someone that if I don’t know the answer to your question I know someone to ask.
I wish you could see the hearts and look into the eyes of folks who want those conversations like I do. I wish you could feel the relief and responsibility when someone who “just eats” sees something and comes to ask, even if it’s a food choice he doesn’t make for himself, so that *he* knows the truth.
I will likely post some photos this week on those social media outlets, and maybe in a small way it will make a small point in what I see. I wish that you could hear the conversations as those in agriculture learn about other parts of agriculture at an informal ag swap. We never stop learning! It’s where I can make those connections with popcorn growers, and Monsanto folks, and insurance people and others outside my normal circles.
I often say agriculture is vast. This year I get to meet someone who works for a rendering company – for those not in agriculture, that’s the folks that pick up animals that die or had to be euthanized and can’t be used for food. I get to talk with those from Australia, and a Twitter buddy I’ve talked bunnies with for some time but haven’t met yet. I get to meet someone who probably wouldn’t have liked me very much a couple years ago, but who has taught me much about the reactions fear has on food decisions.
I hope we all continue to learn ways to communicate better. I hope we can, as a collective unit, work to bring the story of agriculture to y’all. I hope that you will stick around to see that.
And I wish you could see the satisfaction in each farmer’s eyes at loving what we do and being good at it. Much has changed the last 5 years but we haven’t. Not really. We’ve, hopefully, all gotten better about answering questions but there’s many more conversations ahead, and more that need to happen.
I wish you could see it all too. I hope that a small amount comes through. For many reasons, it’s pretty freaking awesome. And I’m excited to bring another year, recharge, learn new ways and crawl into technology further. It’s not always comfortable, but it’s important.