For a number of years, farmers have been considered to be a "trusted source." That means that as a farmer you have some amount of instant credibility. However, over the past several years, there has been more skepticism about farming practices. When the general population is polled about their trust level of specific practices, the level of trust goes down when it comes to specific practices.
There are a number of reasons trust begins to evaporate, but the root can be tied to the fact that the majority of the population is about three generations removed from the farm. That means that there are a lot of people who didn't even have grandparents who were on the farm, and there is absolutely no first-hand experience with being on a farm.
The distance from the farm is difficult for most farm folks to understand. Likewise, it's very difficult for non-farm people to understand what modern farming is like.
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Other people are willing to paint a picture of what modern agriculture is. Is the picture that is being painted reflective of what your farm looks like? If you are an individual who is three generations removed from a farm, what are you going to believe about what a farm looks like -- the loud voice that is stirring up questions about modern farming practices or the almost silent voice from agriculture?
Sharing about our farms is not a skill that necessarily comes naturally to most farmers. It's not something we were taught in the past, but it's becoming increasingly important. When one thinks of a farmer – "strong, quiet type" is more likely to come to mind than "great communicator."
It seems a little overwhelming to try to educate the 98.5% of people who are not from a farm. So think about it from this perspective – does your neighbor or someone who lives in a nearby town understand what you do on your farm? Most farmers will answer, "No, my neighbors don't understand what I do."
What is one thing that you could do to help them to understand what modern agriculture looks like? How about inviting them to ride in the combine for an hour this week? I bet you'll both learn something.
I have faith that when the agriculture community listens to what the concerns are and share why different things are done on our farms, people will be more receptive to what modern farms look like. You'll regain the trust that may have started slipping away.