June 16, 2011
Misperceptions are pervasive around the agricultural industry and with agricultural practices. We live in a world where the urban population is rapidly growing while that of the rural is dwindling. As a society, we seem to be losing touch with our pioneering heritage and have become largely disconnected from our ‘rural roots’. The advent of new agricultural technologies, including the introduction of genetically modified crop varieties, has created new opportunities for modern farming practice. However, these developments have also represented the rise of the agri-cynical ‘foodies’. The agriculture community now not only has to deal with the volatility of world trade markets and the weather, but also with the ‘urban armchair foodie-quarterback’ who often presumes a level of ag expertise and knowledge and often without ever even having set foot on a farm.
The pervasive question for ‘ag-vocates’ then becomes how do we reach this consumer? How do we change perceptions? I draw on a recent blog entry by Michele Payn-Knoper (Gate to Plate), a noted ag consultant in social media, where she poses this (related) question and challenges ag-vocates:
“…[W]hen was the last time you truly made an effort to relate on human terms instead of ag terms?”
How do we put a human face to agriculture? Well, there are great strides being made by many ranchers and producers. They are all doing their part to ‘tell the agriculture story’ by leveraging social media tools through blogging, Twittering and Facebook. Personally, through Twitter, I have had the pleasure of connecting with the likes of @katpinke @JeffFowle @ShaunHaney @KMRivard @cowartandmore @wifeofadairyman @4GFarms @JPlovesCotton @waynekblack @agridome – the list goes on and on… Needless to say, I have learned a great deal from these folks through the information they pass along via Twitter and other online tools such as YouTube, personal blogs and Facebook.
It is evident that online social media has become an important part of the storytelling process. But what of television? I mean, what better way to put a human face to agriculture than through reality TV?
“Dust Up” is a new reality reality show and is touted as ‘one rowdy rural ride through the world of crop dusting’. For almost a hundred years, Canadians have used aircraft as aids in the protection of field crops, orchards, and forests from damage caused by insects and pests, fungi, fire and even frost. The first known aerial application of agricultural materials was by a Kiwi named John Chaytor. In 1906, Chaytor spread seed over a swamped valley floor in New Zealand, using – of all things – a hot air balloon. Over the past several decades, things have evolved considerably in terms of aerial mechanics – from fixed-wing aircraft in the early part of the century to the use of both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, post-WWII.
“Dust Up” premiered in early June on History Television and it just happens to be filmed on location in my hometown area of Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada (Go Bears!) This ag story revolves around three highly competitive aerial crop dusters, two – of which – are father and son (Bud and Brennan Jardine). In the air, these ‘aerial cowboys’ “…buzz inches above the fields – dodging trees and telephone wires – to deliver their payloads…” (Shaw Media Blog) while on the ground they entertain the “Dust Up” audience with family feuds, crisis management and survival strategies. Shannon Jardine, daughter/sister and the show’s executive producer, appears to have hit the mark with this one – both in recognizing a ‘good story’ and in encouraging her family members to tell it in such a public way. This accomplished actor/producer has come a long way from the shy slip of a girl that I remember!
I have to compliment the “Dust Up” producers, publicists and principals. They appear to have launched an excellent publicity campaign to promote the program and to raise its visibility. And they have effectively leveraged social media to accomplish this, connecting to viewers through Facebook, YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/DustUpTelevision) and Twitter (@DustUpTV). TV and social media are highly complementary in this case – you betcha!
No matter where you farm in the world, ag-vocates all speak the same language – – – agriculture! Pesticides and fungicides play an important role in managing crops and in sustaining our food supply. The practice of aerial spraying represents a cost effective and timely way in which to protect our crops. So, for a little drama in the sky and a whole lot on the ground – and relating ag on human terms – check out “Dust Up”! You won’t be disappointed!
“So far, the Spray Gods are on my side…” “Maverick” Brennan Jardine, Crop Duster.
“Dust Up” is produced by Paperny Films and Prairie Threat Entertainment in association with Shaw Media and is televised Thursday evenings on History Television. Episodes of “Dust Up” can also be viewed online at: http://www.history.ca/video/default.aspx?releasePID=e_O2LOaF3eglAsFQHS7_RE_Am6YVYFYp
Want to meet some more ag storytellers? Michele Payn-Knoper provides a list of farm/ranchs blogs, ag-vocates, and other ag references: http://www.causematters.com/ag-resources/.
Estey, Ralph H. (2004). “Canadian use of aircraft for plant protection.” Phytoprotection. 85 (1). Pps: 7 – 12.
Globe and Mail. (2011). “Five Shows worth Watching.” (2011). Thursday, June 9. Available online at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/television/tv-photos/tv-five-shows-worth-watching-tonight-june-9/article2052335/
McCoy, Heath. (2011). “The Hazardous World of Crop Dusting.” Star Phoenix. June 2. Available online at: http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/todays-paper/hazardous+world+crop+dusting/4878762/story.html
Payn-Knoper, Michele. (2011). “I eat. You farm. So what?” Michele Payn-Knoper’s Gate to Plate Blog. Available online at: http://www.causematters.com/advocacy/i-eat-you-farm-so-what/
Shaw Media Blog. (2011). “New series Dust Up premieres on History Television in June.” Available online at: http://www.throng.ca/dust/new-series-dust-premieres-history-television-june