I was spending my time this morning trying to catch up on bookwork and do some of the normal things we do as farmers after getting through harvest and trying to prepare for year end tax prep when I received a phone call from the leader of a business organization in our neighboring city. Hastings is a city that sits only 1.5 miles from my farm here in central Nebraska. It is the birthplace of Kool-Aid, boasts an ecclectic, thriving downtown, was home to the largest Naval ammunition depot during WWII, and now is home to 26,000+ people of which quite a few are not aware that agriculture is directly or indirectly responsible for 1 in 3 jobs in the entire state of Nebraska.
I have been very active in advocating for agriculture around our area and have taken on roles in various organizations to help promote the great opportunity I have to be a producer of the the worlds food, feed, fiber, and fuel. It is a role that I did not neccesarily look for, but was asked by different people through the years to do different presentations on agriculture in our community. Regardless, I embraced it.
So, I agree to meet this person, a member of his board, and a person on his staff. One of the first things said is how appreciative they all are of agriculture, and the effect it has had on bouying the economy of our area in these tough economic times. That sense of being appreciated is something the agricultural community needs when so close to a larger city like Hastings (I also appreciate them for ease of access to hardware stores, restaurants, groceries, parks, recreation, cultural activities, etc, etc.).
See, one of the ag boards I am on sponsors an Ag Tour for leaders within the community every year where we try to visit a different part of Nebraska and show the economic and social impact of agriculture. One of our focuses is to always show a different part of animal agriculture in particular. These individuals had taken the time out of their schedules to learn about agriculture. We had begun to make steps to bridge that gap that exists between rural and urban, particulary when you have a large city so close, yet so far away in the minds of most within the city limits.
The way this sudden meeting came about was the attendance of one individual to a meeting about AFAN, (Alliance for the Future of Ag in Nebraska) which is a group here in Nebraska that continues to evolve in order to protect our very livelihood as farmers, ranchers, and stewards of the resources we use to produce the worlds food, feed, fiber, and fuel. A local banker had decided to have a meeting with city leaders to introduce them to AFAN and the challenge they are taking on in defending agriculture. AFAN has decided their focus is going to be the education of the public as to the realities of agriculture in Nebraska, and let people become Fans, hence the theme “Become AFAN”. They are going to tell the real story, not let radical environmental or animal rights groups tell the story for us. If you have seen the map from Missouri’s prop B election, it is easy to understand that our efforts should be focused on Lincoln, and Omaha here in Nebraska. So, these individuals wanted to know how they could help, and how the ag community could help them help. I was humbled by the thought that this organization wanted to step up to the plate and go to bat for agriculture in our area, particulary when we think the fight is with the largest animal rights group in the US with a 127 million dollar budget. To have an organization centered in the city, want to go hand in hand into battle with the ag community to defend agriculture to me is progress!
It was a great meeting with some forward thinking individuals within our community. I know they appreciate the role agriculture has in this area, but I do not believe this happened by accident, nor did they just wake up one day and realize what agriculture meant to the area. It was an educational effort that started many years ago that was initiated by our County Farm Bureau to help bridge a gap between rural and urban. We just need to understand each other better, and realize we all benefit each other, was, and still is our thinking.
Agvocating does not produce results overnight, but over time, we can have a profound effect on the public’s view of our profession. I have tried to take every opportunity presented me to support my profession, and have seen a lot of results over the last few years from seizing those opportunities, but today I felt like it all came together. My point is, agvocate and educate when given the chance because it will pay off. It took a generation or two to remove the farm from people, it may take as long to create understanding and appreciation again, but make the first step. AGVOCATE!!! Rotary, Kiwanis, Toastmasters, Lions Clubs, YWCA, whoever is willing to let you talk about agriculture. It will pay dividends down the road.
For more information on agvocating, visit the AgChat Foundation Website.