Sustaining Sustainability Strength

Is sustainable agriculture sustainable in the public’s eye?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Environmental Respect Award event in Washington, DC. During one of the morning sessions, the attendees broke into three smaller groups to discuss the topic of sustainable agriculture at length.

It was interesting, to say the least. While everyone in my breakout group agreed that sustainable agriculture was definitely an industry practice everyone in the marketplace was wise to adopt, getting this decidedly good news out to John Q. Public seemed to be a much fuzzier proposition.

“I know I’ve talked about the benefits of sustainable agriculture to the farm press folks, and they get it,” said one attendees, pointing in my direction. “But I have no idea how I can reach out to those outside our market and get them to realize just how great a practice this really is.”

Since virtually everyone in my breakout group agreed this was a major issue for agriculture, we spent the rest of our 40 minutes together thinking of ways to bridge this gap between the industry and the outside world. Some recommended intensifying community outreach efforts that promoted sustainable agriculture. Others thought some kind of sustainable agriculture television ad, akin to the Chevy/Paul Harvey/Farmer spot that ran during the 2013 Super Bowl, might work. A minority thought just continuing to support sustainable agriculture would eventually do the trick.

So what do you think? If you can, answer this week’s poll question on how the industry can spread the good word of sustainable agriculture. It’s definitely something our market needs to promote more than it has been in the past.

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2 comments on “Sustaining Sustainability Strength

  1. I think you have to clearly define what sustainable agriculture is to the public first before you will gain their trust and buy-in. Does sustainable agriculture mean using less chemicals, less water use, less runoff, reduced tillage, preserved wetlands, less carbon release, more organic, and similar? Has anyone really asked the consumer what they expect from today's food producers? The "grow local" food coops are addressing many consumer demands and are growing in popularity. How do you propose to bridge the gap? The Chevy-Farmer ad was an excellent ad as it was nostalgic for simpler times. Clearly, nostalgia works in messaging and branding. Consumers want to know if today's food production is safe for their families? The word "sustainable" means something different to many consumers and producers.

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