As farmers, we must realize we are focused on providing basic needs. An advanced society is defined by its ability to move up on the hierarchy of needs. The common ground where we can connect is food.
Farming is my occupation, but like 100 percent of people, I am a consumer of food.
What I grow on my farm is heavily regulated to be sure it is safe and environmentally friendly. I welcome information gained from sound, scientific research because I am driven to improve what I do. Ultimately, the highest scrutiny is self-imposed; what I grow must be safe for my family and sustainable so I leave the land in better condition for my grandchildren.
As a farmer, I create progress by applying science, technology and experience in the best balance. My goal is to grow a better soybean with fewer resources. While I rely on science, technology and experience, most non-farmers have their own perspective, as well. This is important to realize because in order for non-farmers to have confidence in the food farmers grow, we need to be able to communicate with them in a relevant way.
We live in an Information Age. There are studies out there to repudiate either side of most any position, and often the truth gets lost. So if I enter into a discussion explaining all the science and technology I use, and after 2 minutes I have not related anything to a non-farmer’s prospective of science, technology and experiences, their instinct will be STOP listening.
When they stop listening, we’ve all lost.
Having meaningful conversations where we talk to non-farmers and not down to non-farmers will be important as we continue to tell the farming story. Finding that common ground, such as food, is only our first step. How we approach the conversation will ultimately be the key to success.
Paul Freeman is President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and farms near Starbuck, Minn. He can be reached at email@example.com.