Stop zoning out of authentic agriculture

I’m guilty of it, and I’m sure you’re guilty of it as well. You’re sitting in a meeting or talking with someone or even trying to watch something and suddenly, you feel like you’re in a Charlie Brown clip with the teacher droning on and the only sound you hear is “WAWAWAWA.”

Sometimes zoning out is useful; one time in college, I found myself sitting in the wrong class on the first day of the semester and managed to zone out a really terrible lecture on thermodynamics from a professor who was 95 years old.

However, I’ve also found myself being called on when I zone out and looking like a bumbling fool when I need to ask for the question to be repeated.

As a high school English teacher and volleyball coach, I also have been the one being zoned out. It doesn’t happen often but sometimes grammar just isn’t that exciting (it’s always exciting to me, but at 17, complex and compound sentences just don’t seem to be a smashing hit).

I think we can at least agree that, at some point in our lives, we have zoned out.

It turns out that zoning out is not always a bad thing. Our brains zone out when we are overstimulated, overwhelmed, tired or facing a myriad of other issues. It is our brain’s way of saying, “Hey, little break needed over here!”

However, it can also be bad. Zoning out while driving is responsible for accidents, while zoning out in other crucial moments can cause information to be lost, things to be missed or other issues, some with serious consequences.

So what you may ask, does zoning out have to do with agriculture? Excellent question, my friend and way to be engaged!

See, this weekend I traveled to Louisiana to celebrate Labor Day weekend with my brother, his wife and a few friends. It was a great weekend with activities held outside, including a delicious shrimp boil and a morning spent getting horseback riding lessons from Lauren at LoMo equestrian, an accomplished horsewoman. Bless her patience when I could not figure out how to apply pressure with my right thigh.

However, Amy (my brother’s wife) has a great horse named Indy who was a trooper with my fumbling novice attempts.

After my lesson, I sat and talked to a mom whose daughter was getting much more nuanced jumping lessons after me. She explained to me that they had just moved down there from Virginia for a job. As a stay-at-home mom, she took her daughter to all of her activities but never really paid attention to what was going on during the lesson. It got me thinking about agriculture and the people who attend but zone out.

Here’s how it feels like it has gone in agriculture. Farmers went from talking to no one, to talking to everyone, and now we’re just trying to get people to zone back in our conversations.

In 2017, food, beverage and restaurant companies spent more than $14 billion on food advertisements (Rudd Center, 2017). Approximately 80% of that $14 billion was spent on foods like sodas, candy, fast food and unhealthy snacks (Rudd Center, 2017). This dollar amount ($11.2 billion) exceeds the entire U.S. budget of $1 billion for chronic disease prevention and health promotion.

These companies are shouting louder at everyone than farmers can. Yet, these companies are probably the furthest away from the production of food.

Instead of tuning in to the voices from our farmers, people are zoning out and choosing instead to buy into the flashy and catchy commercials on our televisions, iPads, cellphones or the latest social media app.

We need to stop zoning out!

Knowing about food from the actual people growing it, raising it or producing it is more important than buying into the latest television commercial or TikTok fad. Talking to a farmer, listening to his or her production methods and stories are the times when we need to tune in and pay attention. It may not always be the most polished or flashiest presentation, but what you will get is someone who delights in sharing their story with you and in turn, you will understand more about how those raw goods actually get made into the products on your tables and in your homes.

So friends, I ask you, when you feel the urge to zone out, let’s zone out in front of those flashy television advertisements from Chipotle, Panera, Hunt’s, Subway, Dannon, Progresso and a host of other companies that have made anti-agricultural commercials in the past few years.

Let’s choose to tune in when the farmer next door starts talking to you about his or her soybeans, corn, cows or whatever, and, I guarantee, the world will be a better and healthier place.

Submitted by Christen Clemson, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, who has completed her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca Township.


OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.