I do realize that you folks are busy, and taking time out of your schedule for anything that does not involve getting an ill-tempered farmer that load of fungicide for his tasseling corn is a hassle. But I have to ask again, as I have several times already this year: What are you doing to spread the good news about agriculture?
Sure, it’s easier for me to do it. I have a magazine and a Web site and some enewsletters. So if I want to, I can get something out in a hurry. But then again, I’m not in the field every day, working the land and out among the rural communities like you are. My speeches are often to a welcoming choir, while you might be found trying to ease the fears of some transplanted urban family about that 90-foot-boom-sporting application rig doing its thing in the field next door.
So you do wield some influence out there, especially when their front yard during application season is not the only place that suburban family sees you.
Maybe you coached their kids in a sport, or work with the local Cub Scout troop, or … perhaps you gave a speech about the benefits of agriculture to the local Rotary. Or visited the school to make a presentation. Or held an open house with free food and games.
I had the honor of serving as a judge for the 20th Environmental Respect Awards, and I can tell you that the level of community involvement among all the recipients is really what sets them apart. All of the things I just mentioned were a part of many of the self-audit packets that retailers submitted, and each makes a significant impact on the community.
As you read this, we are preparing to take this message to Washington, DC, along with more than 200 current and past ERA recipients to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this program. We’re planning to fly the flag proudly on behalf of agriculture, and we will feature extended coverage of the program this fall. We hope it inspires you to put your hat in the ring in 2011.
On a different note, beyond my judging exploits, I had one other small victory this spring. A city-dwelling ninth grader working on a school project asked me for information about what she called “intensive agriculture,” and whether or not I thought it was necessary to use fertilizers and pesticides, including insecticides, in agriculture.
I was thrilled she asked, and between my own narrative and the input of a friend of mine, Illinois grower John Reifsteck, she got a ton of information. I asked her later how it went, and she said that the most compelling point we made was that we could not grow enough food to feed the world without the input tools that we use. Well, there’s one for our side — just a few million more to go. Go out there and speak up for ag!