By Clinton Monchuk
As farmers and ranchers, we’re proud of the products we produce. However, this pride can sometimes get in the way of meaningful engagement with consumers. We will periodically see differing opinions around the methods that we use to grow food, some of which are very negative. As with any difficult situation, it’s best to de-escalate and respond with understanding and transparency wherever possible, rather than lashing out.
First response sets the tone
Take a few extra deep breaths. This will minimize the impulse of a knee-jerk emotional response. Seeing something negative about what we hold near and dear to our livelihood often provokes anger. By taking a few extra moments to calm yourself before you hit enter or open your mouth will set a better tone for any response.
Consider the source
Put yourself in the perspective of the person sharing the negative information. If you know this individual or group of individuals is from an anti-agriculture group… DO NOT ENGAGE! It is 100% not worth it to get into a food fight. No one wins. Your anger will get the best of you and you’ll lose sleep. Mental health is important; there is no need to add extra stress.
If there is a genuine concern for food production in the comment, please engage. In Canada, less than 3% of the population has a direct tie to a farm or ranch, so you may be the only person linked to food production this individual has ever interacted with. Realize their background information is limited around agriculture, so proceed slowly and explain the reasons why you do certain things.
Connect on values
There are a significant number of shared values that all humans have. Personally, I love to connect on the family side as I’ve always said that family comes first in my life. By using this shared value, I can identify that our family consumes the products we produce on our farm. Someone without any farming experience can value that they wouldn’t harm their own children, so they can relate to the safety I value in the food I produce and eat.
When you relate what you’re doing back to your own family farm, engagement is higher and trust grows. Picking weeds over thousands of acres (football fields) of land isn’t feasible on a large scale if we want to feed a growing population. This is why we use herbicides. This may resonate with those who have gardens and they will understand how weeds appear and need to be dealt with.
Show you care
I’ve never met a farmer or rancher who didn’t care about their land or animals. Having an open, honest and transparent conversation about what you do and why will amplify your level of care for food production. Also, don’t forget the golden rule when it comes to care: treat others how you’d like to be treated. Let’s try to be more gracious to each other.
For those who want to delve deeper into this subject, Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan has developed a workshop called “Speak-Up Training” to help people communicate about food and farming. Visit farmfoodcaresk.org for details.