What would it require for you to make a 180 degree turn against something you previously believed to be true? I’m talking about the kind of shift that rocks your world, the realization requires a significant lifestyle change, the kind of change that you want to tell all your friends and family about because you realize you all have been wrong about something for a long time.
This is what agriculture is up against with our consumers. We have been silent for too long while others told our story in a negative way. We allowed the time and space needed for the public to make a 180 degree turn in their mindset of agriculture. Many of us were oblivious to how badly we were being slandered because we were busy working. We didn’t have time to get involved in the dialogue… That stuff was for our advocacy groups! Yet lately we can’t help but realize that the message has gotten so bad against us that even our own government is passing laws to put us out of business because the people in our society don’t comprehend the big picture of their diet.
The public is constantly looking for the truth, and they are entitled to it, but too often lately that has been ending up like the scene from A Few Good Men… “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”
If you haven’t seen A Few Good Men you can see the clip here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9FnO3igOkOk
Our situation is closer to Colonel Jessep’s than I care to admit. We are sitting on the witness stand acting obnoxious and aggressive, yet we are totally oblivious to the fact that we are being made the villain in the story.
You want me in those fields, you need me in those fields!
We have dedicated our lives to the day to day grind of feeding the world. We understand the complexity of situation and we are willing to work in the dirt all day long to provide the food and shelter for the benefit of the country.
Yet remember what that mindset did for Colonel Jessep… I’m not defending his criminal actions in any way, but the example is similar to the way we are looked at. He fully believed what he was doing was correct for the good of the country. His actions used to be considered acceptable, however that time had passed and he refused to accept it. No amount of shouting or arrogance was going to make his actions acceptable again, and it certainly wasn’t doing anything for his image.
Agriculture’s image is also pretty lousy in the public’s eye. Right, wrong, or otherwise, the 180 degree turn has already happened. We aren’t going to see an easy switch back to the old mindset. Those days have passed, and we need to wrap our heads around that. There are some practices that we must be willing to abandon, because they are flat out unacceptable to society. Even our acceptable and mandatory practices must be justified on a day to day basis. We constantly must be aware of our image in the public eye. We must be prepared to truthfully tell the story of agriculture.
We are all currently on the witness stand, it’s your turn to tell your tale. Don’t make the same mistakes Colonel Jessep did!! Think about your message as if you were the consumer. Tell your story as if you had to win yourself back. Our future depends on it!
Jason Mast is a fourth generation farmer born and raised in the Central Valley. He is a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo graduate with a degree in Agriculture Science, and currently works alongside his father and brother to manage their dairy in Denair, CA.