Start a Conversation about Farming… with Someone, Anyone!


Last week I attended the Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in Des Moines.  Dr. Jay Lehr, PhD, was the keynote speaker on Wednesday.  He began by showing a video of himself, asking urban residents questions about farming.  Needless to say, he received many funny looks at first from those unsuspecting folks in the videotape.  Yet, every conversation turned into a good dialogue about food and farming.

When people are asked what they think about Iowa, Dr. Lehr says they immediately associate it with agriculture, corn and cattle.  He doesn’t understand why residents of the number one corn and soybean state do not fully support agriculture – and he’s right!  Iowa faces an anti-ag attitude.

Iowa farmers often find themselves in situations, defending their livelihoods.  This state’s largest newspaper frequently runs stories blaming farmers for everything from the Dead Zone in the Gulf to ruining water for recreation!  Dr. Lehr was very adamant that they are wrong.  Too many people just do not understand modern farming.  And to further make his point, he used one of my favorite phrases, “These are not Old McDonald’s farms!”

Dr. Lehr drove home the point that, as Iowa farmers, we must share how we farm.  He challenged each of us to spend two hours per month, sharing our farming story with others.  If we don’t tell our stories, someone else will – and we may not like it!  Other groups, like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), will paint a picture based on misinformation and emotion.  By doing so, they push their agendas and gain widespread national media attention.

Non-farmers are interested, as proved by Dr. Lehr’s video.  The need for information is probably why so many of them buy into messages by the plentiful messages broadcast by HSUS and PETA.  It’s also why we must start more conversations.  If we let others tell our story, it’s not going to be the story we want told.  Just think how much understanding could be created if each Iowa farmer spent two hours each month to help explain modern farming!

Think one family farmer can’t make a difference?  Think again… just look at the impact the Peterson Farm Bros have made!  Their Facebook page has 86,547 likes with 24,702 talking about them.  Their parodies of pop songs filled with ag stats and farming know-how are wildly popular.  “I’m Farming and I Grow It” parody they posted one year ago has had more than 8 million hits – 8,814,359 views to be exact!  Their newest parody on Katy Perry’s “Chore,” posted about 21 hours ago and already has more than 70,000 views.

While we aren’t all as talented as the Petersons, we can start conversations by posting their videos on our Facebook pages and sharing some ag production stats.  Articles posted on our Facebook pages also can start conversations by providing opportunities for others to ask questions, which is what happened when I posted a link Sunday to an article in The Des Moines Register.

Modern farming is a huge success story of how technology has very much improved the way we farm, keeping the environment cleaner in many ways.  If you farm, start a conversation with a consumer.  If you don’t farm, start a conversation with a farmer. Ask questions. Farmers can also listen.  Who knows, you might hear a different story!