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    Progress or Proving who is Wrong?

    Agriculture is the cornerstone of a healthy, vibrant society. Anyone who is involved in food production can agree on this point. If you cannot feed your people, high gas prices, taxes, and healthcare are mute points. Besides this point, on the surface it seems that the agreement ends there, but this is just on the surface. What I see happening is that the debate on food production is getting derailed by generalizations and assumptions. This just needs to stop, indeed, stop immediately!

    Food production is a complex process involving science, logistics, economics, and policy to name a few. To think that only one approach is going to "solve our food problems" is just plain wrong. This is not a problem that can be solved by developing an equation and solving for X, with X being safe and healthy food. We need to take a step back and engage ALL parties. Just to be clear, here is the actual definition of engage: to carry out or participate in an activity; be involved in. I do not see anywhere in that definition where it states your position is the only correct approach. Engage means you bring your knowledge to the table and share, then LISTEN to the other party as they share their knowledge. It is a bit irritating reading the latest articles from TIME "http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1917458,00.html" and the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/opinion/23kristof.html What do the authors really think is going to happen when they paint with such a broad brush? What really happens is this: alienation and defensiveness from the ag community, and rightly so I might add. Put yourself in the place of a modern farmer and read these articles. They were not represented at all. If you doubt the reactions of a farmer, just read their blogs, which you can find via this blog site. After this step in the debate "process", the ProFood advocates then make a claim that modern agriculture:

    1.) Cannot handle criticism and
    2.) Call anyone in the media who disagrees with their position just a sensationalist.

    As you can imagine, this creates a vicious circle that teamwork and innovation cannot take part in. So how do we go about working together, us modern agriculture and ProFood folks?

    Step one is for everyone to acknowledge that we are all ProFood, especially farmers. What farmer in their right mind is going to go out there and pump their livestock full of unessential antibiotics and then turn right around and feed it to their family? I personally do not farm, but feel very confident in the fact that the answer is none. This applies to the production of crops also. So how about we start off with the foundation that we are all ProFood? For more information on ProFood visit here http://everytable.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/five-stones-of-pro-food/ Step two is to do away with the assumptions that advocates for modern agriculture have an agenda that supports corporations polluting our water, ruining our environment, and destroying our soil. Looking outside in to the discussions, it is clear to me that farmers just want the facts about how THEY run their business included in the media. Ask the average consumer how food is grown and see what answers you get. I will bet you bottom dollar that over 70% of the answers will be very similar to the recent articles that have been published. No wonder consumers speak out! I certainly would if I thought that was how ALL food was produced.

    Where the debate should fall is upstream of the actual production. To be fair, much of what ProFood focuses on is upstream; however, a broad brush is used and alienates the same people you claim to support; the farmer. Why can we not have modern agriculture supplying local food economies? We can, but this takes time. Another very important piece of the local food economy is the actual food you grow? Currently much of the ProFood movement are growing vegetables and fruit. What about the staple crops that we all depend on? Do you really think a 2 acre wheat field is the same as a 2 acre vegetable field? It isn't. Please read this article: http://bit.ly/Hzlde It discusses local food economies with staple food crops.

    I am going to reiterate that we divorce the word industrial with modern/conventional. Maybe this can help facilitate calling a spade a spade instead of calling a heart a spade. Both ProFood and modern agriculture can learn from one another and actually, believe it or not, complement one another. ProFood can learn from the modern farmer and utilize the technologies they are able to develop to better manage their food.

    Just a quick thought due to last nights #agchat. If you haven't read the postings yet, look here: "http://www.trufflemedia.com/twitter/Agchat20090825RA.html" Thanks @TruffleMedia for compiling this very useful information! I leave you with this definition Tact: The ability to make a point without making an enemy. We could all benefit with a bit more tact.

    1 comments:

    1. Great post Nate. I completely agree. What many fail to realize is that the average consumer cannot distinguish through the shades of gray in agriculture. Broad brushes & black vs. white does a disservice to all agriculture sectors. Bad press or condemnation of "industry" (which is a word I personally despise, I might add) hurts all aspects of farming. Regardless of size, type, net profit, or net loss. Consumer confidence is lost and all farmers even direct to consumer pay the price.

      Many very small farms rely on the commodities to keep their farm afloat even while transitioning into a local or regional direct to consumer system. It is important to keep that in mind.

      I am often accused of being a "Big Ag" advocate, which is just shocking to me. Anyone who knows us, our farm, our history, our passions know we are the complete opposite. We just try to use more "tact". Afterall, it is our job to bring these farm products to our local market. We enable the family farmer to add more value. I would certainly never intentionally squelch that.

      Amy
      KyFarmersMatter (on twitter)
      Split Creek Farms & John's Custom Meats (in the real world)

      One more thing, if you are reading this and happen to be in Kentucky, don't forget to buy "Kentucky Proud" (shameless plug).

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    Agriculture passionado! I lead GeoVantage's Sales, Marketing, and Business Development activities. If you haven't explored the benefit of remote sensing for production agriculture, now is the time! Not one to rest, I am also a part of the Memes Associates team where we focus on assisting large companies in the agriculture space to "re-discover their inner entrepreneur" through the introduction of market disrupting technology(s) and services.  

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