July 26, 2015

What Does Agriculture Mean To You?


K-Days in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada means midway rides, deep-fried fast food, skill-testing competitions for prizes, and plenty of exhibits to check out. One of those exhibits I checked out was the Martin Deereline Farm.

The Farm had everything to do with farming: crop displays, livestock, tractor displays supplied by Martin Deereline (John Deere to everyone else), and horses, of course. There were also a wealth of educational displays and materials for people to read and learn about the animals and crops there. It was an exhibition that was catered for non-agricultural people, city folk, urbanites, you get my drift.

What stuck out for me in that particular exhibit was a large sheet of paper with several sharpie markers attached to string so people could write on that paper their thoughts on agriculture. Specifically, to answer the question, "WHAT DOES AG. MEAN TO YOU?"

I started reading some of the responses and even seen a couple I wanted to address which I did get to later, when three boys, who looked like they were fresh from the frat house, came up and seen too the opportunity to write up something on the wall. I didn't want to stand around and watch, so I wandered off to give them some time to write whatever it was they were wanting to write before I meandered back.

Of course by the time I got back, five minutes later, they were still there and giggling over something obviously stupid that someone like me would give the eye-roll to. But it didn't take them long to finally leave so I could get back and write up something myself. 

Except that what wanted to write and did write, really did and does not matter in so much as what was already written there. (Personally I don't think I need to put down what I wrote on here because with this blog, my answer is pretty self-explanatory, and is already reiterated below.) And It was three particular things written on that sheet of paper that irked me so much that I want to discuss them here.

One particular note that bothered me more than anything was a rather indifferent response to (and I'm paraphrasing here because I cannot remember exactly what was said): "Agriculture is a way of life centred around hard-working people who make a living to feed the world." And what did that great little note get?

"Nobody cares."

Well fly me to Tuktoyaktuk and abandon me in the middle of nowhere! How so damn indifferent can a person get?? My immediate reaction is, "oh, bullshit nobody cares!"  If nobody cares then why is literally everyone still buying food from the grocery store, farmer's markets, restaurants, fast food joints, food trucks and even food vendors at K-Days?! Why does everyone where clothes that more than likely have cotton, wool, hemp, linen, etc.? And why are people able to be living in the city, have non-agricultural jobs, travel, and do all the things they can and want to do without worrying about where to get their food every waking hour of every day?? How can they not care about what agriculture means to them, or to someone else, when they EAT?

So I wrote, circling the response as I did: "If you eat, you do."  In other words if you're human and feel the primal urge to consume nutritious substances so that you can not only satiate that hunger but continue to live and function and do the things you  want to do, then you bet your boots you damn well care. Because if we didn’t have agriculture, most of us would be soon starving to death when all the food runs out and nobody knows how to raise crops or animals to meet that demand. Yeah, if nobody cares then we might as well be robots!

The second note that I found to be slightly less offensive than the first was one of the notes that those three damn fools left behind and were more than likely giggling over: "Um, … I'm a vegan."

THIS one deserves the indifferent, "Nobody cares," response! Because well and truly, no-one gives a rat's left testicle about what diet a person follows if the question is to ask what does agriculture mean to them.  I wrote, "So? Diet doesn't matter because everyone needs agriculture to produce the food that suits what they choose to eat. Being a vegan still means that you need agriculture to feed you and it still means that agriculture is worth something to you."

Seriously, I don't care if you're vegan, vegetarian, piscetarian, omnivore, or even an outright carnivore. Nobody should care. The point is that agriculture must mean something of value to you because it's agriculture that supplies you with the food you need or want to eat to satisfy whatever diet you choose to follow. Modern society, and global food production, has allowed for a more diverse array of diets to be more possible. It's food production on a global scale that is the fundamental existence of agriculture. Being vegan or omnivore still means you are heavily reliant on agriculture to feed you.  That's the bottom line. Unless you rely solely on food you have hunted or foraged for. But even growing your own food still counts as an agricultural venture, even if it's not exactly "farming" per se.

The final thing that bothered me were the few notes telling people to, "follow me on instagram,  etc. @xxxx" some social-media clap-trap I've never heard before that apparently the younger folk find all the rage these days. Nothing else, just some silly "follow me!" notes. Either they didn't know what to say, how to answer the question, or just didn't care and were more concerned about getting more followers on their social media accounts than what agriculture means to them. I found that depressing.

Depressing because it shows the decline in people not only being more aware of how agriculture affects their lives and their choices, but also how much they care. Of course the whole point of having that exhibit was to teach more people about farming and raise awareness that it's a fact of life and it does exist outside of the city, and is not some unknown alien thing to fear that came from some far-away planet. But I feel that there needs to be a way to encourage people to care more about where their food, clothes, hygiene products and other items come from and appreciate that they came from products grown and raised on the farm.

On the advocating websites for agriculture, like AgricultureMoreThanEver.ca, and from other blogging farmers that have been in the business for several decades to I hear a lot about a need for farmers and those in agriculture to not show how much they know, but how much they care. And in showing how much they care, the urge is to write about and display pictures of what they are doing and how they do it. This supposedly is supposed to educate the consumer about what farmers do for a living and how they do it.

But now I'm wondering how can we get consumers to care more about what they eat than how many more followers they can get on their Instagram or Tumblr accounts? How can we, as agriculturalists, farmers, ranchers and agvocates, come up with a solution to get a largely urban population more aware of where their food comes from than what's trying to be done now?

It's so much harder to influence those who really don't care compared with those who might care and end up caring to want to learn more. The brick wall is those who don't care. We can only hope that some day they'll finally wake up to their senses and realize that what they didn't care about in the past matters to them now in a much more significant way than they could have ever dreamed.

So, what does agriculture mean to you?