At the University of Saskatchewan and through my work with the TUFGEN/GE3LS Project, I have the distinct honour of working with some of the best minds in the world in agriculture: agricultural plant scientists and social scientists. One of my favourite peeps in the world is one Kari Doerksen.
Kari and I crossed paths through VALGEN a few years ago. She is (I would argue) the ‘main cook and bottle washer’ for the project; competent, passionate, funny and incredibly intelligent and well-respected within the research community. Kari is also a good friend. We also discovered, in passing, that we came from the same home town – Nipawin, Saskatchewan. Go Bears!
Having both grown up in small-town, rural Saskatchewan, Kari and I not only have a pretty good understanding of agriculture but we also have a shared passion for advocating (AKA ‘agvocating’) for those that we see as ‘stewards of the land’. Let’s face it, our world is rapidly changing. There continues to be major advances in how food is produced. The rural and urban divide seems to be growing and people are less connected to their ‘rural roots’. This, combined with the rapid adoption of mobile technology and social media as ‘just in time’ communication tools, has the potential to heavily influence public perceptions around food and agriculture. And not always for the better.
The Western Producer published an article (September 20th, 2012) that Kari wrote that reflects some incredibly insightful bits on why advocating and communicating are so important for the future of agriculture (link to doc below and link to WP article here). Here are some excerpts from Kari’s article:
The social realities: “More than ever, people are going to the internet for their daily news. When we want to know something, what do we do? We used to use an encyclopedia, now we use Google. This is a fundamental change and not a passing fad.”
The fall-out: “Several anti-agriculture science groups have caught on to the power of social media and are using it to influence public opinion [about food production and agriculture].”
The solution? Tell your story!: “…people, including me, are curious about you [the farmer], why you do what you do and what you think about all of this controversy around food.”
Finally, one important last bit…“[W]hen the public, policy makers and politicians Google science and agriculture topics, these little things called blogs and tweets show up in the search results…What kind of information do you want them to see?“
This is a call to action, folks; a call to share YOUR farming story…“Be a leader, and help others become leaders. The practice of leadership challenges us to listen to, understand and respect others, even if we have differences of opinion.”
Other related posts:
“Before you decide to egg-liminate from your diet, read this” (August 2012) – response to“Egg yolks are as bad for you as cigarettes”
Questions or concerns about feedlots? – one vegan’s account of a US feedlot (June 2010)
“Fear profiteering = big profit!” – “…the press does not print “There was no wolf, after all” stories when alarms are shown to be false or overblown. The press and public remember the “Wolf!” story.” (April 2011)