Over the past 8 months I have been doing a lot of thinking about keeping an open mind and acknowledging that my knowledge and opinions may hurt me more than help me when it comes to promoting things that I am passionate about...Education and Agriculture.
I have heard and studied with my husband about "Foodies" and "Locavores". Listened to my husband partake in deep discussions about Urban Ag and worked with people that promote the Farm to School program. I have also been fortunate enough to partake in conversations about organic farming and GMO crops. Ultimately the best conversation regarding agriculture was with a dear friend at the dinner table about why we need GMO seed, what our responsibility is to the world, the long term effects of our current technological advances, the disruption of the natural cycles in nature and most importantly what the Bible says about agriculture. Now I must say that our conversation was not near long enough (several kids running around). But, it was one that really made me stop and ask, " What would happen if..." and how do all the different farming and ranching practices fit together to supply the demands of our towns, cities, states, country and world.
It was amongst and after all these opportunities to learn and the excitement that I saw on my husband's eyes as he listens and speaks with many people from a variety of backgrounds that I decided to become better educated and interested in the big picture of agriculture. I had spent the last 12 years of my life learning about our operation’s ins and outs that I had spent little time reading, listening and speaking with others in the field and people (actively involved in ag and those who aren't) with things to say. I realized that no matter what they have to say we both have things to learn from each other.
Among the things I have learned to date I have learned that organic is not the enemy of conventional practices. Infact, organic commodities are a fabulous way to connect with the consumer and enter into conversation about choice. Nutrient value is generally equal with both options; it is simply a matter of cost, availability, and lifestyle. Organic is not an option for all, but it is a wonderful way to make the connection between producer and consumer.
Urban agriculture is also growing. Now I must say that it is VERY different from what I have come to know, but none the less it is still is an important sub-culture within the agriculture industry. I have found that some of my biggest challenges when trying to talk about agriculture come from the urban population. Many times it is because the hustle and bustle of the city lifestyle has not provided time for consumers to think about how the food gets to their store, where it comes from, availability, price, quality etc. The urban ag movement gets people, groups and even companies involved in knowing about the food they consume, the effort that goes into producing and perhaps helps them stop and think about the entire (or part of) the complex and advanced agricultural system in the United States.
My biggest challenge has definitely been the concept of spirituality and agriculture. Part of my challenge is not knowing what all the Bible has to say and part of it is a struggle with responsibility to supply. How do my personal values and morals co-exist in an industry that no longer (not for a long time now) is a self sustaining lifestyle. U.S. agriculture is a worldwide life sustaining business that is always moving ahead. Where does my balance come within farming practices, desire to get a few more cents per bushel, relationships with business partners and landlords. I have stated several times that I will not become someone that I am not comfortable with to move up the ladder, but when does livelihood and need to compete compromise that statement? I have not had to deal to heavily with that as of yet, but I know my day will come and I will need my faith to pull me through. I hope that as time goes on that my dinner conversation with a dear friend will continue for she is very knowledgeable, has a different perspective than many in our community and is a wonderful listener!
So, I guess the moral of today's message is that no matter what the theme or topic of the conversation is, listen, ask questions, and share. You will always learn something; even if it is just a better understand of the other person or perspectives that are out there!