I've brought a few of my city friends out to the farm before. I've even brought some friends from Europe out to see the farm. The guests always enjoyed it, although it wasn't until later than they got the real insight on how big this thing we call agriculture is. It's hard to cover such a broad topic in a single sitting.
So what are some of the common myths I dispel here at school? There are plenty.
Isn't corn bad?
Seems like a dumb question, but, yeah. I was asked this. Knowing that I work with Illinois Corn, the person seemed shocked that I would do such a thing! Corn is killing the Earth, after all! And it's various uses are all bad. Ethanol is bad, corn-based foods are bad, feeding it to animals is bad...
I think I had to physically grab my jaw and pick it up off the floor when I was told this. You see, I'm pretty familiar with corn, and I didn't know any of these things! Anyways, once I recovered from the shock, I asked the person where they heard all of this. They couldn't really reference where their knowledge came from. I'm not really surprised about that one.
"Don't farmers only work, like, 3 months out of the year?"
I thought the person in question was kidding when they said this. I think I might have actually laughed. Once again, when I recovered from the shock of realizing they were serious, I asked them why they thought this. They said that farmers only had to plant and harvest, right?
They didn't stop to realize that "farmers" are also livestock producers...unless you can raise beef from a seed now. Also, they didn't realize that many farmers raise more than one type of product that would require different attention throughout the growing season. I then went on to explain that I know plenty of farmers that actually have seasonal winter jobs that they do during the off season in addition to their farm administration work, such as snow-plowing.
"Aren't farmers kind of...?"
I didn't let this person finish their question. Before they were even finished, I said, "Dumb?" Upon realizing this was, in fact, what they were going to say, I frowned. The person in question knows Tim, (my farmboy as I often refer to him as on Twitter and in this blog). Well, Tim is working on his bachelor's degree in Agronomy, the study of plants and soils in relation to agriculture.
Some of the smartest people I know are farmer folk. Many of them are my heroes. How many people do you know that have to know as much as they can about as many things as farmers do? Exactly. Heck, I know one guy out in California that seems to raise everything. It's like every time I talk to him I find out about some new animal or plant he's somehow involved in. He's a smart guy, and I'm pretty sure he could tell you anything you want to know about anything he works with. He's also pretty tech-savvy. He's managed to teach me a thing or two (or many) about social media. Some of you may have figured it out by now, but I'm talking about Jeff Fowle. Check out his Twitter profile here.
Every moment can be a teaching moment. I'm faced by these moments fairly often, as a rural-born minority here at my school. My co-workers, supervisors, peers, classmates, professors, friends...most of them don't know agriculture. They haven't spent their lives watching it, surrounded by it.
So, my challenge to you is this: sometime this week, find one person to reach out to who might not understand it. In most cases, the public isn't purposely hostile, they're misinformed. It's our job to patiently, gently educate them on what happens and why. The best defense is a good offense, and agriculture needs some backing-up these days. Well, make your offensive plan an outreach one. I'd love to hear people's stories regarding this.