Dawn Of A New Agriculturist

Dawn of a New Agriculture

Dawn of a New Agriculture

Recently, I have seen a number of comments referring to amazement at the time a number of farmers and ranchers spend off the home place traveling. I felt compelled to put together my thoughts on the matter, as this related directly to me and how I have decided to invest my time both on and off the ranch.

Farmers and ranchers today are faced with a plethora of decisions to make when it comes to how to invest their time.  For decades, farmers and ranchers spent nearly every waking hour on the farm or ranch, and maybe, every once in a while, would take a day or two off to go to the county fair or a very short vacation. Times have changed.

It has taken me nearly 20 years, but I believe I now understand how the system works and what needs to be done to change the course of the future of American agriculture. Laws and regulations are drafted based on pressure and input from a small group of skilled and powerful activist groups. These laws and regulations are then passed, in theory, with the support of the public.

Society has been listening to the loudest voices and those voices have not been farmers, foresters and ranchers.  When people lack an understanding of an issue, they naturally draw from the most readily available information and that information has not been provided by farmers, forester and ranchers.

There is a tremendous amount of ground to make up and traditional strategies will not suffice. Social media has opened a door of opportunity to reach out and reconnect producers with consumers. The voices of the family farmer, rancher and forester have been silent for too long, allowing biased and misinformation from anti-agriculture groups and mainstream media to have major influence on a society that is generations removed from the land.

However, direct involvement in policy development at the state and federal level is still extremely important. There is a multitude of commodity and production method organizations actively engaged, sometimes standing on opposite sides of the table. At less than two percent of the population, we cannot afford to be divided on major issues; time and resources are limited. I have great respect for Farm Bureau, which is guided by policy that stems from individual farmers, foresters and ranchers representing every production practice and commodity.

America’s agricultural community is beginning to awaken. It has recognized that staying home is not a viable option if we plan on being able to continue to pass our farms, forests and ranches on to future generations. Families across the country are having the conversation of who is going to do what. That conversation is no longer limited to responsibilities related to producing their product but now also includes attending regulatory hearings, county and state advisory meetings, organizational conventions and even engaging in the social media world.  

I am one of those who heard the alarm. I do not attend meetings to “get away” from the ranch nor my family; those are the most precious things in my world. I do it to try to improve the odds that my son will have the option to continue farming and ranching like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather. I volunteer my time because I am passionate about American agriculture. I sit on the county planning commission to ensure that smart growth occurs, private property rights are protected and agricultural viability is not threatened. I am active on the county Farm Bureau board and multiple state committees to help shape policy that will protect the rights of all farmers, foresters and ranchers, without favor to size, location, and commodity or production practice. I volunteer with other farmers and ranchers across the country to see that the AgChat Foundation is successful in accomplishing its mission of empowering more farmers to use social media. I travel to conferences and conventions to share my knowledge in social media and communication in the hope that other agriculturists may discover an effective way to share their story. My family and I invest in these meetings and travel just as we invest in new cattle or equipment.

America is discovering a side to the agricultural community that has been hidden and silent for too long. Farmers, foresters and ranchers are passionate, articulate, technology savvy and are sharing stories that are shocking society. Stereotypes are being broken. Assumptions are being proven wrong. We are listening to moms who have heard misinformation about what we do and worry about their family’s health and we are talking about what happens on our farm and those of our neighbors for generations. The American agriculturist will not succumb to activist agendas, onerous regulations or the attempts by government to trample upon and take private rights. Our future will no longer be dictated by the elite few. Bridges are being built, communities are growing and positive dialogue is leading to mutual understanding based on trust and respect.

These bridges and communities provide me untold hope that as Kyle graduates and looks at the paths he can choose for his future, the paths cleared generations ago on horseback will offer him the opportunity to produce food, feed and fiber for this incredible country of ours.

  1. Mike Haley
    February 10, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    Well said Jeff. I agree with you that leaving the farm for more than a few hours at at time is not my favorite thing to do. Its just as important for me to take the time and share my voice as it is for me to be on the farm tending to my crops and livestock. This is why I find Social Media to be so effective for me because I can do both at the same time.

    In the past we relied on our farm organizations to speak up on our behalf, and they have done a very good job at it. But as our society became digitalized people want to hear information directly from the source as they no longer trust the intermediary. It bothers me that parts of the community that has asked for farmers to speak up are now criticizing farmers for scheduling time away from their farms in order to engage in conversations with them.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 11, 2011 at 7:03 AM

      Thank you Mike. It is a pleasure to be able to work with you on the Foundation.

  2. February 10, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    Agree absolutely! Travel, video, criticism from reaching out…none of this comes ‘naturally’ – have lived in many points in the US and everywhere I go people eat, but we’re not exciting unless it’s negative. Yet people wonder why food is going up, why farmers “don’t listen” while at the same time the majority are apathetic about action. They want “organic” “free range” whatever the new buzzword is – and there are people willing to produce it all, but it’s not at the local Safeway so not convenient, and it’s more expensive than the food in the store or it means making another stop.

    I persist because just because many don’t realize, seemingly, ceasing to support agriculture is impossible for life doesn’t mean I don’t see it. I just spent 45 minutes trying to pay a power bill with technical glitches that would not allow completion of the payment, despite a demand for payment. We don’t pay our power bill we are shut off. What if farmers did that? If we could do that…it’d bring America to a halt and most don’t even realize the extent of the impact. Social media brings a new possibility in reaching others but sometimes it feels like it’s too little too late.

    Then I think of the next meal and realize millions of others are doing the same. Earlier in the week I attended a seminar and looked around the arena at the suits – figuring I was probably the only “ag related” one there. There were some speakers focused on money but many focused on “what matters”. Auburn football coach Gene Chizink said leaders are humans with real problems – connect & tell your stories. Be it football players or whatever – I equally look around and see leaders going on no matter – and am thankful to be included and “get to play” too. Everyone is important.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 11, 2011 at 7:06 AM

      Thank you Jan! Great statement to share from Gene Chiznik. Thanks.We enjoy getting to “play” with you too! Keep up the great work 🙂

  3. February 10, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    Jeff,
    You are right on with your message of not sitting back and playing defense but leading out in telling the wonderful story of the resource based producer in our great country, the farmers, ranchers, loggers. No longer shall the Sierra Club or Earth First tell their twisted version of the great developments in production and environmental stewardship that agriculture has achieved in the last half century. In a nutshell, in the last 50-60 years the development of high yield agriculture has saved a land area the size of South America, minus Chile, from the plow. It is the main reason we still have forests and habitat for wildlife. This is a great environmental success story that we should be proclaiming from the mountaintops. Bruce Vincent, you might know him, a third generation logger from Libby, Montana has a similar message, Aggies lead out in telling this story. I just recently heard him speak at an Ag consultants meeting in Texas last month he inspired me to start my own ripple so I started my own blog. My first post is about Vincents speech at http://crophuggerreport.blogspot.com/2011/01/2011-naicc-annual-meeting-highlights.html
    Keep the good commentary coming and keep telling your story…

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 11, 2011 at 7:08 AM

      Thank you for your comments Marc. Bruce Vincent has a great message. Thank you for sharing the link to your blog. I’ll be sure to get you added to my Bloggers page that I am working on.

      • February 12, 2011 at 8:21 AM

        Jeff,
        You bet, glad to be a part, stay the course and look forward to a bright future for agriculture.
        Best Regards,
        Marc

  4. February 11, 2011 at 3:55 AM

    Jeff, Excellent post. Just well said, and I’m reminded of a little account from my Dad. Years ago, he wanted to track his time, hour by hour on a daily basis, no surprises there, lol. But amazingly, dad’s time only “counted” if he was outside doing something. Any work in the office, meeting in local community, non of that got put in the database, b/c it wasn’t “working”. So like our tools and methods, even they way we as farmers spend our time has often changed. But as we always say, it’s still the same farmer! Thanks once again for a great post!!!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 11, 2011 at 7:10 AM

      Thank you Darin. My Grandpa used to do the same thing. I still have a few of his pocket books that have his tallies. It’s an honor to be able to work with you on Foundation.

  5. Elizabeth Burns-Thompson
    February 11, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    Great post! The industry is better off because of individuals like yourself who continue to share their story and passion for agriculture. As a young college student myself, I appreciate the work of prior agriculturalists that ensure prosperity for my generation.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      February 11, 2011 at 7:11 AM

      Thank you for the kind words Elizabeth. Best wishes for finishing a successful adventure in college.

  6. February 11, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    I thought I heard you in my head again! As usual you collected my thoughts accurately.

  7. February 11, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    Keep up the good fight, Jeff. I am glad to see more farmers and ranchers involved in policy making and Ag’s future. I think I am actually going backwards and trying to spend more time on the farm. These days I can monitor all of your hard work from here on the ranch! Animal rights activists, and many others are full of misinformation. It’s time to get our word out, farmers are talking.

  8. Pat Roets
    February 14, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    Very interesting posting and I am glad that you wrote it.
    Farmers do need to get away from the farm and become more aware of a world that has changed. How often it is that when I tell people that I am a farmer they act surprised and then recall how their own grandfather was a farmer. In two generations and sometimes less the knowledge of farms and farming has all but vanished but for childhood memory. A sad loss.

  1. February 10, 2011 at 9:31 AM
  2. February 14, 2011 at 5:08 AM
  3. February 21, 2011 at 5:24 AM

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