I participated in a discussion about agriculture yesterday evening (go figure, me talking about agriculture - surprising I'm sure).
Let's start off with some questions and answers:
Are there issues surrounding sustainability in agriculture? - YES
Are there bad participants who break the rules in agriculture? - YES
Do we all, as dedicated ag folks, want to stop these bad participants? - YES
Are we all tired of silly labels? - YES
Just to be clear, the above answers are mine, and mine alone. They represent my opinion.
Now, on to the conversation...
It centered around the "fact" that agribusiness is ruining farming, requires no skill to farm, and is taking full advantage of family farms to shield it's activities. A mouthful indeed. As you can imagine, a statement like that, whether explicit or implicit, invokes strong reactions from the very people who have worked in agriculture for many years; sometimes generations.
As is usually the case, I immediately began thinking about what could be done to add balance and stop spinning everyone's wheels. Alas, it may be too late for that. There is so much water under the bridge that the bridge may be under water. There is lack of trust and heavy assumptions built into the discussion prior to it even starting. I can only imagine the thought processes of everyone taking part once they see the first tweet.
Let's hope the scenario above is not the case as this shouldn't be about which farmer is better. It should be about how farmers can share knowledge based upon actual experience instead of putting on the boxing gloves and start punching.
The following points are what interferes with progress:
Labels and Painters
Yes, I know there are many colors, we only have one brush so let's lump 'em all together and slap a label on
Labels can easily become a misnomer. And are we not trying to prevent confusion to the consumer so they can make an informed choice? I certainly thought we were.
Imagine for a moment that your family has spent decades building their farming business. Each generation takes very seriously their responsibility to maintain this business and pass on the legacy to their children. Now throw into the equation that you are being attacked and called very nasty things because you stand up for what you and your ancestors have been doing for, well, generations. How would you receive this un-constructive criticism of your business? Would you invite the group/individual over for afternoon tea? Maybe you would bake them a scone?
There is a place for labels (in this instances figuratively speaking) as it helps the consumer understand and make decisions on the #food they purchase from an emotional level. But the broad use of them to tarnish anyone who disagrees with your viewpoint? It reminds me a bit of how teenagers use labels; immediately to gain popularity, increase their visibility, and put down the other person.
Why painters you ask? Good question. I use the term painter in terms of the statement "paint with a broad brush". We are not making television sets, toasters, or tractors. We are working with the environment and ALL that encompasses. Producing food, feed, fiber, and fuel is damn hard work. Oh, and it's complicated.
So while you, as an activist (I am also), pursue your end-goal, keep in mind that being a painter isn't such a good thing. There are nuances, geographies, and different environmental issues that must be dealt with. Well, now that I think about it, I just became a painter with the above section....