Does agriculture have a public relations problem?
Perception of who we are in agriculture has been a constant struggle we have faced as more consumers move away from rural communities in favor of urban life.
This problem has escalated in recent years for a multitude of reasons — one, greater efficiencies in the industry have resulted in fewer hands involved in the work of putting food on the table; two, an abundance of food at the grocery stores means people never have to worry about where their next meal will come from; and three, instead of people being able to witness first-hand how food is grown, information derived from social media, activists, politicians and Hollywood has resulted in more confusion than ever before.
As a result, it’s been difficult to find our common ground and our shared values. I’ve always believed, however, if we could sit down with our counterparts, we would find we care about the same things when it comes to purchasing food at the grocery store to feed our families — safety, nutrition, taste, affordability, environment and animal welfare.
Even knowing we share these commonalities, there’s still a great deal of work to be done to make agriculture cool and sexy once again.
The one silver lining of the pandemic has been the “essential workers,” those who provide the goods and services we need to function in our everyday lives, are in the spotlight. All of a sudden, we care more about where our toilet paper, hand sanitizer, meats, dairy, eggs and other products we can’t live without come from. There’s a stronger push to get to know the people behind the products, and the opportunities are great if we can take advantage of this open window to share our stories.
However, in the current political climate, you may want to simply go off the grid, ignore the craziness of the outside world, shut off the mainstream media and just keep working the land and raising the livestock you love.
I totally get it, and I go back and forth from feeling like I need to reach out to our consumers to thinking it’s time for me to shut down and hide away from the world for a bit.
If you need a distraction for a moment, may I suggest a television show that celebrates the hard-working Americans who provide the food, fiber and energy to support our country and the world.
CBS has a new show called, “Tough As Nails,” and a friend alerted me to this really awesome series. This all-new reality competition squares off everyday Americans who get their hands dirty while working long, hard hours to keep the country running. In season one, we get to meet a welder, firefighter, farmer, roofer and Marine Corps veteran, just to name a few.
According to CBS, “These competitors, who consider the calluses on their hands a badge of honor, will be tested for their strength, endurance, life skills, and, most importantly, mental toughness in challenges that take place at real-world job sites.
“One competitor will be crowned champion, but nobody will go home. Even after they "punch out" of the individual competition, they will have the opportunity to win additional prizes in the team competitions that continue throughout the season,” CBS said.
“‘I was inspired to create this show almost a decade ago because of my working-class family of farmers, gold miners, builders and coal miners," said host Phil Keoghan. ‘I'm proud of my family and wanted to shine a light on people who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to do a hard day's work. Now, more than ever, it is important for all of us to recognize this country's essential workers: real people in real life who are real tough.’”
Ohio farmer, Melissa Burns, represents agriculture well in the series.
She describes her typical day on the farm, “Every day is different. My day starts anywhere between 3:00 - 4:00 AM. House chores get completed, then depending on weather and the season you will find me in the fields or at the feed mill. We work before the sun comes up and will not stop until after dark or all the work is complete for that day.”
When asked what makes her tough as nails, Burns said, “Getting up every day and putting in the work. We don't do it for the money. We don't do it for anyone but ourselves. I am a tough farmer, a tough female farmer!”
It’s shows like this that are a win-win because it brings rural America and those who work in these important fields to the forefront. When it comes to a public relations campaign for the food, fiber and energy industries, this one gets the job done. Check it out and let me know what you think!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.