Last week after a speech, a young college student approached me. Eager to connect, she started with, "Do you ever get completely frustrated with these liberals?"
Her question was intriguing to me. Not because it was unique, the exact opposite. Because it was so common.
Almost without fail, when I get the chance to talk to producers about the desperate need to tell the story of agriculture, someone asks a similar, politically loaded question.
But it's a fair question, isn't it? In this politically correct era, surely a blogger can still call a spade a spade?
Because isn't the reality that our enemies are easily identifiable? Isn't agriculture really just at war with liberals?
I'll leave that single word there, by itself, plain and simple. The answer is no.
I speak with non-Ag people, consumers, every single day. In person, on social media, on the phone.
The people who are misinformed enough to be engaged in some type of desperate battle against modern farming come from all walks of life. They are all religions, all races, all income and education levels.
They identify as liberals, conservatives, and everything else on the political spectrum.
Agriculture is being attacked by misinformation. Agriculture is being attacked by ignorance. Agriculture is being attacked by science illiteracy. Agriculture is being attacked by deceitful marketing. And those things do not discriminate based on party lines.
The real enemy to agriculture is misinformation, not our consumers, who are often acting based on the only story they've been told.
I understand in this time, we want to group everything into an "us versus them" mentality, playing right into this partisan environment. An environment that nurtures politicians and while being toxic for the rest of us.
But when we do that, when we divide people into "us and them" categories, we make two deadly mistakes.
First, we assume that those in the "us" category understand and support modern agriculture.
Recent voter initiatives in my own state of Missouri showed us just what a deadly mistake that can be. We concentrated grass roots efforts on urban areas, thinking "those" people do not understand us.
The reality was made clear as our "Right to Farm " was just barely protected, even in the rural counties.
As it turns out, there are just as many people in our own backyard- our neighbors and family members- that have uniformed opinions of modern farming.
Second, we assume that those in the "them" category are beyond our reach. We dismiss their questions as ignorant, their concerns as absurd. We then attach a label to them and dismiss them as individuals.
We can continue to make these deadly mistakes, continue to comfort ourselves with this notion that the problem is all because of "them".
Or we can start having a conversation and answering the questions so many people have. Legitimate questions, asked by legitimate people. People who are more than a political party. We can talk, but more importantly we can listen. We can connect.
And maybe that goes for more than just agriculture.
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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