Call for Backup

Did you know . . . (from https://callforbackup.org/)

. . . we lose more police officers and firefighters to suicide every year than are killed in the line of duty?

. . . the rate of suicidal thinking among paramedics is at least 10 times greater than in the general population?

. . . that dispatchers and corrections officers are at a greater risk for suicide due to stress-related issues?

. . . that the greatest concerns of first responders are the stigma associated with mental health issues and their departments’ seeming lack of support?

If you are a Police Officer, Firefighter, EMS worker, Dispatcher, Corrections officer or any type of first responder, I urge you to go check out the Call for Backup organization, and see what they can offer to you, you can find information about them at https://callforbackup.org/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CallForBackup.org/

(Taken from their website:)

Our unique training program helps first responders understand how the stresses of the job impact them mentally, emotionally, physically, behaviorally, and spiritually, and also helps them see how certain skills can make them more resistant to stress and more resilient when a major stressful event occurs. Most importantly, we teach them how important it is to look out for one another – to be the backup when someone needs it, and to call for backup for themselves when necessary.

Please be aware that we are not a “crisis line” or “hotline,” but a resource for peer support.  If you’d like to speak to one of our peer support specialists, please send a message to m.me/callforbackup.org/ and someone will respond as quickly as possible. 

IF YOU ARE IN CRISIS NOW, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1(800) 273-TALK (8255), or text the keyword BADGE to 741741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor, 24/7 – always free and confidential.

Mental Health Sobriety

When a person lives with addiction and they get clean they call that sobriety, typically those terms are most commonly reserved for people who have used drugs or alcohol. But what about someone’s mental health? Could the same terms apply as well?

If you have ever lived with depression, people often say they felt like they were in a dark tunnel, and it was hard to see any light that would indicate some form of hope or safety. If you are fortunate enough to find your way out of that darkness you know what a great feeling it is to be back to being happy again, back to being productive and possibly enjoying interacting with other people again.

Once you have repaired your mental health to a level that you are happy with, you will soon realize that after that “honeymoon” period of feeling back to “normal”, you will need to change your ways or your habits so that you don’t slip back into the depression you fought so hard to get out of. For addicts it’s the same thing, treatment centers teach addicts tools and tricks they can use to keep themselves sober and to help prevent them from going back to a lifestyle of using again. Mental health is no different.

Learning about your mental health and identifying things that may trigger your depression is the first step, next you will need to develop tools that can help you navigate around those triggers should a situation arise that can harm your positive mental health fitness. Now each person is different, things that help you stay healthy and happy may not work for the next person, this is why it is important to take time and reflect on the things that make you angry or upset, and discover what you did to overcome those feelings.

It’s what I call maintaining your mental health sobriety. It’s just as important to take care of your mental well-being as it is to take care of your physical well-being. The two truly go hand in hand. If your leg is broken you go to the doctor and get it fixed so you can get back to “normal” and you more than likely learned a lesson of what not to do to avoid re-breaking that leg again. You need to do the same for your mental health, if needed, get some help, get it fixed, and get back to living your life, but remember how you got there and learn ways to prevent from going back there. Your life has value, your life is important, so make sure you do what you need to do to stay mentally sober.

Facts about Food

The below information is not mine, it is from an article written by Jodi DeHate, when I read the article I thought she did a great job of breaking down a lot of information about farming practices to the point that you do not need to be a farmer to understand what she is saying. I reached out to Jodi and asked if I could post a copy of her article because I felt it was great information to share with all of you. Hopefully you will learn something I did.

Decisions, decisions…Which food is better? 1-19-21

It’s a new year and for a lot of people it means a resolution to eat healthier. Which is a great goal! Eat more vegetables and fruit, yay! A question that came up is, “Do farming practices impact nutrient density in our food?” What’s your guess here? Yes, no, or have no idea and just give me the answer.

Myth #1 Soils are depleted

One of the common myths is that our soil is depleted, and farmers are producing nutrient empty foods. Or that using commercial fertilizers makes our foods less healthy. Let’s unpack those thoughts.

Crops remove nutrients from the soil. That’s a fact. To the point, scientists have calculated averages for how much each crop will remove nutrients from the soil.  To replenish those nutrients farmers can replace them with fertilizers. Cover crops, crops that are grown after the main crop, can help scavenge nutrients and hold them there till the main crop is grown again. Cover crops like clover, vetch, peas, and other legumes can actually add nitrogen to the soil, further reducing the need for commercial fertilizers.

Farmers soil test their fields every few years. Soil tests tell farmers which parts of the field need more nutrients and which parts don’t. Farmers apply fertilizers using the 4R’s of fertilizer stewardship: the Right type of fertilizer, Right time, Right rate, and Right amount. Due to the number of dairy farms in our area, many of the fields here receive manure. Manure contains nutrients and something commercial fertilizers don’t have- organic matter. Farmers do test the manure for what nutrients it contains, reducing the amount of commercial fertilizers needed. Without the proper amount of nutrients in the soil, crops simply will not grow well.

Crops do NOT know the difference between nutrients coming from organic sources like manure versus nutrients coming from commercial fertilizers. If a nutrient is present near the root hairs then the plant will uptake it.

Organic vs. conventional

Surely food produced using organic methods is far healthier than those that are produced conventionally, right?  The short answer is not really.

Remember this article is on nutrient density, and while organic foods do have lower amounts of pesticides you would still need to eat tons of food per day to feel negative effects from what residues that may still be on your foods that were produced conventionally. Check out https://www.safefruitsandveggies.com/ . There’s a fun food calculator to use.

Back to nutrient density. From a 2012 Stanford University study, organic foods in a few instances are marginally better nutritionally than conventional, but not enough to make a huge difference in your overall diet.  An exception is for organic dairy products that have significantly higher levels Omega-3 fatty acids, but this wasn’t necessarily conclusive either since the studies were on fairly small samples size.

What about livestock feed practices?

Which one is better for you? Grain finished or grass finished beef? Most beef is raised on forages regardless of how they are finished. Forages are grasses, legumes (think clover or alfalfa), and forbs (things like dandelions, wildflowers). Then cattle are brought into a feedlot 6 months before slaughter and finished on feed that is a mix of forages and grains. This gives beef its nice marbling and flavor profile.  Grass finished is where animals are kept on the forages until it’s ready for slaughter.

What’s the nutritional difference? Grain finished is .4 grams higher in protein, .1 mg higher in zinc, .2 mg lower in iron, and is 2.3 grams higher in total fats per serving of beef. This information is supplied by the Beef Checkoff Council which represents all beef producers.

What about eggs? There is definitely a difference when it comes to what eggs look and taste like when chickens have access to the outside. The color of yolk is yellower and tastes richer. Chickens are getting more bugs in their diet aka protein, and more beta carotene from plants they are picking at. But what about nutrition? Unless the chickens are fed an Omega-3 rich diet which translates to more Omega-3s in the egg, then nutritional differences are not statistically different between eggs.

Veggies are wild

In vegetables especially, there are huge differences in nutrient profiles amongst varieties. This is a known effect called nutrition dilution. Breeders of vegetables have focused for the most part on yield. The more the farm yields the more the farmer gets paid, so yield has been the main focus for plant breeders for a long time.

It’s known that some varieties of vegetables aren’t as nutritious. Because the plant was bred to produce more, less nutrients are expressed in the product. Plant breeders are now aware of this phenomenon and are breeding plants that both have high yield and are more nutrient packed. It’s going to take time to get those varieties onto farms and to you in the grocery store, about 20 years or more.

Even with this known, nutrient density is wildly dependent on soil types, weather events, plant stress, and pest stress. There’s some interesting research coming on how soil health may impact vegetable nutrition.

So what should I eat?

Dieticians recommend eating a variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and fats. Eating the rainbow has been a popular mantra from dieticians for good reason- you’re more likely to get all the nutrients you need from food by eating a large variety of foods, but especially fruits and vegetables.

With all this said, there is a difference in how things taste. Homegrown or local tomatoes in the height of their season are the best tasting tomatoes. Same with fresh sweet corn. You can’t beat local or homegrown. Many dieticians still recommend eating a variety and eating what you like as far as taste of a product. If that’s a grass fed steak and organic salad, great! If you like grain finished burger and conventionally grown, but local potatoes, awesome!

Good stewardship in farming practices is still important for a plethora of reasons. One is reducing impact to the environment which is what the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) does with cooperating farmers.

Jodi DeHate is the MAEAP technician covering Missaukee, Wexford, Kalkaska, and Crawford counties. She can be reached at jodi.dehate@macd.org or 231.839.7193 at the Missaukee Conservation District.

Winter Time for Farmers

A few months ago I proposed the question of what do farmers do during the winter time, below are the many responses I received.

Haul grain, do books and planning. Work on equipment and normally go to farm shows!

Well the crew I work for is a diversified operation.  Don’t really have an off season.  Go as hard now as we do during the crop season .

We have cattle and maintenance and improvements for the next season need to be done, the pressure is less than in planting time but work doesn’t stop.

Business as usual on a dairy farm sans fieldwork.

Maintenance to equipment.  Mending fence. Cleaning shop area. Cleaning out inside of machinery.  Organizing tools, supplies.   Time With friends/family.   Working on hobby projects (woodwork,  model kits) restoration projects

We have hogs and cattle so there’s daily chores/feeding. Two guys in the shop busy going thru each piece of equipment, making needed repairs and detailing tractors and semi trucks. Three Miller sprayers were inspected and have multiple repairs to be done.

Tillage anhydrous dry fert…now shop work and calving…rebuilding soil finisher going to put shocks on a semi, need to work on the planters sooner or later and just other equipment maintenance

We did other field work for over a month after we got done combining

Sell seed, fix old junk equipment, clear brush

Livestock chores take more consistent time during the winter vs the growing season. Hauling grain, doing small maintenance projects, moving snow at a couple building sites, attend meetings and seminars, go to medical appointments.

From November to March I haul grain as a side business. During the slower times I work on equipment. Beginning of March I park the truck and start getting planting equipment ready to go

Coffee shops, coffee at Caseys, ride roads in afternoon, Busch Light, check cattle, feed hay, go to neighbors, Busch Light, fix shit. gossip. deer hunt. nut fry at shop.

Barn maintenance

Busy hauling grain, zoom meetings, and rebuilding planter with new precision equipment!!

My wife is a middle school principal, I have 12 year old twins, so home and kid running is my deal. I’m at the gym at least an hour plus daily, sit on a COOP board and the @IowaSoybeans board. I always have something going on!

Working on the tractors and equipment.

Usual dairy chores and maple syrup. Mid February to end of March is busy

Meetings about policy, new tech, soil health, water issues, fertilizer etc. maintenance on as much equipment as we can, Breakfast and lunches with family and friends. Planning. Accounting. Yearly employee reviews. planning. Buying seed and inputs. Meeting w/landlords. planning

Haul hay

Try and do a post harvest pass with the sprayer. Harrow straw that needs managed in the fall. Clean up grain bags nov December. Haul grain, bring in fertilizer and work in  shop. I spend quite a bit of time in the office planning and focusing on the business. Keeps 3 of us busy

There’s always drainage tile to put in…

Lots of maintenance on vegetable and potato equipment crop planning and fertilizer sales

Fix stuff from last summer feed cows haul feed with semi an belt trailer to pay for farming text year

Don’t have a shop so maintenance etc is an in season thing, mainly haul grain, fox what I can in the cold, and take care of my kid while wife works full time, don’t take in farm shows, usually sell grain at the wrong time

And you until the last 2 years my winter have been working construction & oil patch work since I got out of high school

Daydream about motor biking…while doing maintenance on equipment in the shop, hauling grain, bring fertilizer in, various building/restoration projects on the go, lots of planning while doing all this stuff, never have a day with nothing to do.

I farm in North Texas close to the Red river . Our cow calf operation keeps us busy in the winter time . So i have guys on payroll all year. We start getting ready for spring planting in December. Always something to do here .

Build fence, straighten out calves, get land ready for next year, work in shop, do taxes, quail hunt, snow ski

From the Panhandle of Texas. Strip-tilling and preparing ground on rest to plant another crop in April and May. All without blowing away! And fixing fences! And lots of prayers for rain!

Marketing grain, budget planning, taxes, online meetings/seminars and working on my mental health, seems to be more important as I get older.

I farm in south Texas. The work never ends. The weeds always grow. Tractors and equipment always need maintenance. The paperwork builds up. My reading list gets longer…

We are in central Texas and we never get the winter break. ALWAYS field work and shop work to do.

Cows. Calving. Work on 10 pickups, sprayer, and relax / drink whiskey.

Fertilize wheat. Equipment maintenance,  livestock

Train with Janelle

Do you have that one person in your life that is always positive, never complains, and just brings a smile to your face even when you are feeling down? I have a few of those, but there is one in particular that really stands out, it’s my friend Janelle Harrison.

Let me tell you a little about Janelle, Janelle is the owner of Train with Janelle where she is a coach and a personal trainer. In addition to running her own business she is a member of the “I am Shebuilt” community, which is a group of women that want real authentic truth about living a healthy lifestyle. Janelle also coaches Cross Country Track at a local public school, and best of all she helps raise beef on her family’s farm in the show me state of Missouri. Oh and did I mention she is a volunteer firefighter who is getting ready to test for her firefighting certification?  The girl is a true rock star!

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be invited to be in a Facebook group hosted by Janelle, it was a 6 week course around the holiday time. Each week Janelle set out challenges for us, she challenged us to focus on new habits for our diet, our exercise and mind and soul. In that short 6 weeks I learned a few new habits that I still continue to use to this day. Probably the best part of the entire experience was Janelle was always so positive and uplifting. If you had a bad week and did not meet the goals you set out to do, Janelle was right there to always add some encouragement to help get you back on track and your focus headed in the right direction.

We all can use a good friend like Janelle in our lives, someone who always sees the potential in us, and knows how to help us achieve our goals, Janelle, thank you for being such a positive and uplifting person!

If you are looking for a little help on how you can exercise better, or need a little help with your nutrition, or maybe you are a runner looking for a little performance advice, you can check out Janelle at https://www.facebook.com/janelle.harrison.5

Or if you are more of an Instagram person you can find her at https://www.instagram.com/janelle_thefarmerscoach/

Here is a link to the I am Shebuilt Facebook group should this be something you are interested in. https://www.facebook.com/groups/iamshebuilt

Yes she is wearing shorts under that hoodie

Verve Collaborative Health

At the end of February I had the pleasure of spending 5 days in the hospital to have my gall bladder removed after a gall stone got stuck and caused all sorts of problems for me. During my stay I had several outstanding nurses that provided me with superior service. One of my nurses was Julie Zulkosky, Julie is one of the co-founders of Verve Collaborative Health. They are a collaborative mental health practice comprised of psychiatric nurse practitioners and mental health therapists based in the Omaha Nebraska area. If you or someone you know is struggling with maintaining their mental health you may want to check them out and see if one of their services can help you out.

You can read more about their services on their website at https://www.vervech.com/ or call them at 402-898-1113

Women in the Trucking Industry

In 2019, women made up only 10 percent of over the road truck drivers, which may seem like a small percentage in a heavily male dominated industry, but the good news is that the number of female drivers continues to climb every year[1]. Every year there is a shortage of professional drivers, some companies such as Dart Transit based in Eagan, Minnesota have begun to seek out women drivers as they are the biggest potential pool for new job candidates[2]. The USA today reports that trucking as an occupation is among the most dangerous jobs ranked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but women drivers are typically safer than men because women take fewer risks and get in fewer crashes[3].

Women have been involved with truck driving for more than 100 years, the first woman to drive coast to coast was Alice Huyler Ramsey. In 1909 the 22 year old Alice drove from New York to California, she drove a four cylinder Maxwell DA, the trip took her 59 days and covered over 3,800 miles[4].

The first woman to obtain a commercial driver’s license was Luella Bates. Luella Bates was employed by the Four Wheel Drive Auto company, in January 1920 Bates drove a FWD Model B to New York City where she was attending the New York Auto show as a driver and demonstrator of the FWD truck, it was there that Bates met with Secretary of State of New York Francis Hugo, and this led to Bates becoming the first female to receive her commercial driver’s license[5]. Bates was such a huge success in New York the FWD Company kept her on and sent her out on several road tours to demonstrate that their truck was so easy to steer that even a woman could drive it, likely not an advertising campaign that would do well in today’s society.

The first woman to own a trucking company was Lillie Elizabeth Drennan. In 1929 she was the first woman to receive a commercial driver’s license if the State of Texas, it was later that same year she became the first woman to own a trucking company (Drennan Truck Lines)[6]. Mrs. Drennan and her drivers, most of whom were black men, hauled an assortment of items from oilfield equipment, explosives, and general freight throughout East Texas. Mrs. Drennan’s biggest claim to fame was her impeccable safety record, throughout her many years of operating her trucking line she received numerous safety awards and she was often used as an example of how other drivers should conduct themselves.

It’s great to see the trucking industry begin to understand what a valuable asset women can be to the industry. Some changes are starting to be noticed to make accommodations for women, truck stops have begun to update their showers to be more women friendly, and some truck stops have also added things like fitness rooms and have also changed their menus to include more health conscious choices. There is still a lot of work to be done, one of the major concerns for women in the industry continues to be safety for women, and continued sexism towards women from male drivers, hopefully over time more and more support resources will become available to make women feel just as appreciated as the men are in the trucking industry.


[1] https://www.freightwaves.com/news/number-of-women-behind-the-wheel-soars-year-over-year

[2] https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/03/09/women-truck-drivers-shortage-opportunities-pay-big-rigs/2845083002/

[3] https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2019/10/more-women-getting-behind-the-wheels-of-big-rigs.html?page=all

[4] https://cdlcareernow.com/articles/history-of-women-in-the-trucking-industry

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luella_Bates

[6] https://cdlcareernow.com/articles/history-of-women-in-the-trucking-industry

Historical Women in Agriculture

In the United States female producers make up 36% of the farmers, 56% of the farms have at least one female producer, 38% of the farms have a female primary producer, meaning the person making the most decisions on the farm is a female, and 9 percent of all farms are run entirely by women. [1][2] The top state for female producers is Arizona according to the 2017 USDA census, followed up next by Alaska. Texas has 156,233 female producers, which is the highest of all the states. [3]

In honor of Women’s History Month I wanted to take a few minutes and highlight a few women who have made some significant contributions to the agriculture community.

Harriet Williams Russell Strong was widowed at a very young age and she needed a way to support her 4 daughters and a way to save her ranch. Mrs. Strong had pioneered new methods of conserving flood waters and irrigating which she used to supply water for her walnut and olive trees. Through these pioneering efforts she was able to pay off the debt on her land and became a leading grower of walnuts in the county where she lived. [4] Later in life Mrs. Strong invented the use of a dam system to help conserve water for irrigation purposes and to help create electricity along the Colorado River, for these efforts she was awarded two medals by the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago IL in 1893. [5]

Temple Grandin is an American scientist and activist who is well known in the agriculture community, she is a leader and an expert on the humane treatment of livestock and she has written more than 60 scientific papers on animal behavior. Ms. Grandin is also an advocate for autism, and to this day she tours all around giving speeches to raise awareness about people living with autism, she is currently working for the College of Agriculture Sciences at Colorado State University. If you ever get an opportunity to hear her speak I highly recommend you take full advantage of that opportunity, she is fascinating to listen to and is a wealth of knowledge in animal science. [6] My friend Jason Medows had the privilege of having her as a guest on his podcast, Ag State of Mind. Her interview with Jason can be found on most podcast platforms.

Dr. Maria Andrade is a scientist who worked with her colleagues to develop nine varieties of sweet potatoes that were drought tolerant for farmers in Africa. These sweet potatoes were bred to not only thrive in the harsh environment but they were used to counteract vitamin A deficiencies for farmers and consumers in the region. In 2016 Dr. Andrade was awarded the 2016 world food prize for her work in bio fortification and the sweet potato which served to alleviate malnutrition in millions of people. [7]

Last November I wrote a blog post about a woman who shared her struggles as a female in the male dominated agriculture industry, if you have not read this blog post yet, you should give it a quick read to learn more about Ms. Avelar. https://hankwade.com/2020/11/16/thania-damaris-avelar/

Lastly last August I had the great opportunity to co-write an article with Bridgette Readel, who is a technical agronomist, to help celebrate the 100 year anniversary of when women gained the right to vote, Bridgette did a great job of highlighting her thought about women and what their history means to her, https://hankwade.com/2020/08/19/100-years-ago-women-got-the-right-to-vote/


[1] https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Highlights/2019/2017Census_Female_Producers.pdf

[2] https://psmag.com/news/ag-census-finds-more-female-farmers-than-ever

[3] https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Highlights/2019/2017Census_Female_Producers.pdf

[4] https://www.womenofthehall.org/inductee/harriet-williams-russell-strong/

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Williams_Russell_Strong

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Grandin

[7] https://www.worldfoodprize.org/en/events/laureate_award_ceremony/2016_ceremony/

Black Farmers in Agriculture

February is Black History month, so it got me thinking and interested in learning more about the history of black people and their involvement with agriculture. I was able to dig up some interesting facts and discovered that black people have made some significant contributions to the history of agriculture and their inventions still have impacts on how things are done today. In addition to learning about some great innovators I also learned a lot about the struggles that black farmers still face in today’s society.

An agriculture census performed in 2012 revealed that black farmers make up 1.4 percent (44,629 black farm operators) of the United States 3.2 million farmers, which was a 12% increase from the previous 5 years. Ninety percent of the black farmers live in twelve southern states. [1] Texas has more black farmers that any other state, the black farmers in Texas account for 3% of the farmers in Texas. The top commodity produced by black principal operators is beef cattle, which accounts for nearly half of the black farm operations.

Henry Blair was born a free man in 1807, he was the second African American to be issued a United States patent. [2] Mr. Blair was a successful farmer and the two inventions he patented was a corn planter and a cotton planter. Both of these inventions helped to increase efficiency by limiting the amount of labor and time needed on the farm.

George Washington Carver was an educator at Tuskegee University and he wanted to learn about revitalizing southern soil that had been stripped by cotton. Cotton is a nitrogen depleting crop, Mr. Carver developed a crop rotation method that rotated the cotton crop with legumes and other corps such as corn that helped fix the nitrogen loss. By rotating these crops, not only did it help improve the soil it gave southern farmers additional produce they could sell beside the cotton. [3]

Frederick McKinley Jones created an invention that is still used daily in the agriculture world, the refrigerated truck. In 1940 Mr. Jones patented a refrigeration system and he became the co-owner of the company Thermo King[4]. Due to Mr. Jones invention, perishable foods could now be shipped to further distances, his invention was eventually added to trucks, boats, planes and boxcars, which now allows fresh seasonal produce to be enjoyed around the world throughout the entire year.

John W. Boyd Jr. is a farmer from Virginia, Mr. Boyd has become a leader in campaigning for civil rights for the black farmer. In 1995 Boyd founded the National Black Farmers Association[5] after he had talked with many other black farmers who all had shared similar stories of discrimination. Mr. Boyd continues to advocate for minorities rights and you can read more about his story and his work at https://www.johnboydjr.com/about

Additionally for more information about what black people are doing in the agriculture community head on over to https://blackfarmersnetwork.com – there you will find a wealth of information about what black farmers are doing today, and also you can read about the struggles that the black farm owner still faces in today’s society and how they are working hard to combat racial inequality.


[1] https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Highlights/2014/Highlights_Black_Farmers.pdf

[2] https://www.farmproject.org/blog/2017/2/4/hikqys8igvv0bo368aco3mrb1rv7d1

[3] https://www.farmproject.org/blog/2017/2/4/hikqys8igvv0bo368aco3mrb1rv7d1

[4] https://www.farmproject.org/blog/2017/2/4/hikqys8igvv0bo368aco3mrb1rv7d1

[5] https://www.agdaily.com/lifestyle/black-history-month-african-americans-farming/

Advocacy vs Arrogance – Promote your beliefs without shaming your target audience

When it comes to advocating for a cause you believe in there is a fine line where a person goes from being an advocate to becoming arrogant. One of the key components to promoting your industry is to educate people without shaming them. The minute your tone becomes condescending and you place yourself on an elevated pedestal you are no longer being an effective advocate for your cause, in fact you are creating more harm than good.

One of my long term goals in advocating for the agriculture industry is to work on closing the gap between the consumer and the agriculture industry. This challenge is much deeper than I realized it to be when I began this journey. One of the problems on the agriculture side is the perception that city people do not like farmers, and that city people are uneducated about where their food comes from. The perception on the consumer side of the “farmer” covers a wide range of topics, many of these topics stem from large amounts of bad information that is spread across social media platforms by people who do not understand the agriculture industry. While some of these perceptions are semi accurate there are many exceptions to the rule.

It’s been a long time practice for both sides to feel attacked by one another and the normalized response is to retaliate back with a message of why the other side is wrong or why your side is better than the other side. These types of attacks and retaliations do not do any good, they only further divide the two sides and in the long run further spread more misinformation and bad perceptions about each other.

One of the latest examples that comes to mind was I saw an advertisement for a “Farm Mom” shirt, the words on the shirt basically described what every mom is regardless of what industry they are in, and it’s great to recognize a farm mom because they are truly some hard working people, but all in all lets face it, most moms work very hard for their family whether they go to a job in the city, work from home, or they are a farm mom. The shirt creates a perception that not all moms are as great as a farm mom, which is fine if that is how you feel, but how is that message perceived by a non-farm mom? If I was a non-farm mom I would feel a bit turned off by that message and it certainly would not drive me to seek more information from you as an agriculture advocate because you do not see me as an equal, your message seems to say “I am superior to you and here is why”.

So how do we fix this? One of the ways to fix this is for both sides to think about their message before they send it. Is your message creating an opportunity to open the lines of communication and provide useful information, or is your message more of a condescending tone that tells me you feel superior to me and you are out to prove you are more superior? The most effective way to advocate for your cause is to open a two way communication with your target audience. One of the worst things to do is take someone’s opinion from social media and apply that as a blanket statement that all farmers believe this or that all consumers believe that. Those types of blanket statements tell me you have not done your homework on how to effectively communicate to your target audience.

From the consumer side of things, if a consumer wants to learn about what it is that a farmer does or why they do something a certain way then that becomes a great opportunity to explain the why, the how and the who to the consumer, but do so in a warm, compassionate and inviting environment. Make the consumer feel wanted and welcome, show them you appreciate that they are seeking information from the source and not from social media, and the same holds true for the consumer. If you are a consumer and a farmer asks you a question about why you live in the city, be warm and appreciative that a farmer is reaching out to you so that they can better understand your wants and needs.

One of the next steps that needs to happen is to start hosting conversations between both sides of the isle. There is a real need for both sides to open up and listen to each other, we have to much talking at each other, but not enough actual listening to each other, both sides need to be willing to understand a problem and work towards a solution, as it is today, we like to tell the other side “here is why you are wrong….”, but instead of that dialogue lets change that mindset to “help me understand why you feel that way”, or “help me understand why you live the way you do”.

As an agriculture advocate when was the last time you asked a consumer why they live in the city, or asked them what are their thoughts on how meat is raised or how crops are grown, and then actually listened to their response? If you have had this conversation was it so you can learn about them and better understand them, or was it your goal to think about how your reply is going to be you explaining to them why their thought process is wrong? The end goal of educating the consumer about yourself is the same but how you construct the conversation can make a huge difference in how that conversation will have an positive or negative outcome of the consumers perception of your reality.

In closing, if you like purple tractors, a good sales person would be one that can change your mind and show you how a neon tractor would be more beneficial to your operation without once saying one negative thing about the purple tractor. A great sales person will listen to you and learn about you so that they can best match up their product with your needs, a poor sales person is the one who ignores your feelings and explains to you that you don’t know what you want and they are going to give your opinion because they are the expert. That same theory applies to advocacy, educate me on your beliefs without making me feel uneducated or less special than you. The more that both sides begin to engage with each other the more we can help stop the spread of misinformation and help stop the arrogant perception we may have towards one another.