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Stop defending agriculture?
During a time of increasing scrutiny of agriculture from multiple angles, many farmers have been uniting with a common goal to come to the industry’s defense. But is “defending” agriculture an effective approach to reconnecting consumers to the farm?
Not according to Trent Loos, a sixth generation farmer well-known for his “Loos Tales” radio program ), who told agriculture students and farmers to “Stop Defending Agriculture” during an April visit to Ohio State University.
He said it’s ultimately the farmers’ job to explain why agriculture is important, but that they cannot continue to communicate in ways they always have if they wish to be effective.
Speaking the wrong language
“We use our own language day in and day out, but don’t give a second thought to how it might be interpreted,” he said, noting that farmers need to adopt terminology that shares what they do in a way the non-farming public can understand.
For example, he shared about confused looks he recently received from others in an airport while he participated on one end of a cell phone conversation about livestock reproduction practices and semen handling.
“We can talk all day and night about science and technology, but most won’t get it,” he said. “Our job is not about the economics, it’s about improving human lives.”
It’s up to everyone
Those in agriculture preferring to pool resources for a celebrity-type spokesperson to advocate for the industry is a “big waste of money,” Loos said, explaining that all farmers need to personally invest in “agvocacy” to make the difference.
“We are great at sitting in meetings with each other, moaning and complaining, but how many times have we got out (of our meetings), went to consumers and had a conversation about what we do?” he said, encouraging farmers to do a lot more in everyday situations when hearing somebody misspeak about food production. “You can stop them and say, ‘you know, you’re not right, and here’s what I do to contribute,’” he said.
Loos also said those in key professions working closely with agriculture, such as veterinarians, can be effective advocates.
'We are our greatest threat'
“No organization poses half the threat that we (farmers) pose to ourselves,” Loos said, emphasizing the need for farmers to be on the same page in advocating for agriculture. “We can talk all day about the wonderful science and technology we have, but … it’s the individuals, not the institutions, that make the U.S. the single greatest place to call home.”
He urged all to personally follow their passions and find ways to make a difference and said the credibility and benefits will follow. “Agriculture and farming is our moral and ethical obligation to be as efficient as we can possibly be with our natural resources to provide the choice of health and well-being for the American consumer.”
All told, Loos said he feels there has never been a better time to be involved in American agriculture, and that he feels a “revolution is taking place with young people” that will help tell agriculture’s stories in a productive manner.
Agvocacy tips from Trent Loos:
- Everything is an opportunity. Loos said the day BSE (Mad Cow Disease) was discovered in North America, it was one of the best days for agricultural advocacy. “Before that day, my voice wasn’t heard,” he said.
- Don’t run from the microphone when a reporter comes knocking.
- Embrace the opportunity to be heard.
- Stay on top of the issues in your industry.
- Know the buzz and what people (inside and outside of agriculture) are talking about.
- Make sure your conversations and messages are tied to what is actually being talked about.
- The best agvocates are not always the best speakers, but the best listeners.
- Listen and look for opportunities to “plant seeds.”
Photo by Dan Toland.