“We need to educate the public about agriculture.” Have you ever heard someone say this? I know I have... many times, and I truly believe each time it was said, the person meant the best.
Today, agriculturalists realize farmers are in the minority. While farming was once the dominant career path, now less than 2% of the American population is employed in agriculture (World Bank Group). And more scarily, the average American is now at least three generations removed from the farm (American Farm Bureau Federation).
You could blame these statistics for being a driving force behind anti-agricultural movements. People do not understand agriculture; therefore, they are willing to believe what they read online or see pictures of despite whether those stories/advertisements/social media posts/etc. truly reflect the agriculture industry we know today.
For example, when we see advertisements for “hormone free chicken”, the average American assumes other poultry not labeled “hormone free” contain hormones which can harm them. However, as agriculturalists, we realize no poultry has hormones. And growth of chickens from what was known in the past to what is known today is not caused by hormones, but rather breeding practices implemented to improve animal genetics.
We as agriculturalists realize we must work to mitigate our consumers fear of agriculture.
However, it takes more than just saying “we’ll educate the public”. But why?
Remember back to grade, middle or high school…
Picture sitting at a desk learning about a topic you know nothing about (for me that was American History). The teacher begins his lecture. He writes a lengthy paragraph on the board. He begins talking. There is no background information given about the topic and no definition for terms used. Rather, he expects you to understand where he is coming from and where he is going.
I don’t know about you; but in this scenario, I shut down.
I tune out the teacher, start doodling on my note book, make plans in my head for what I’m going to do later in the afternoon (when I’m not stuck at school) and simply learn nothing about what I am supposed to be learning about.
I attribute this scenario to educating the public about agriculture, and I think we need to change our mindset about how we showcase the agriculture industry. Rather than focusing on educating the public, why don’t we focus on marketing our industry to the consumer? Let’s be honest. Your “Chipotles” and “PETAS“ of the world aren’t looking to educate the public about agriculture (because if they were they would need to change their facts), rather they are utilizing marketing to connect with the consumer and sell their agenda.
Marketing agriculture rather than educating has the potential to open doors and start conversations with consumers.