How many times do we see the preacher give a fantastic sermon to the choir? But the choir is already there volunteering their time, practicing, and involved. Most likely, the choir already agrees with what the preacher is saying.
Quite often in talking with others about our farms, we are just like the preacher talking to the choir, and we talk to those who already agree with us. In reality, we need to get outside of our comfort zone, and talk to those who may not already agree with us.
It is uncomfortable to talk with others who may have differing opinions. There is a great fear that others will challenge us and question what we do. They may (and most likely will) say things that make us uncomfortable. Perhaps they will seem to know more than we do. What if they are better at presenting their side than we are?
The negatives always come to mind. But, perhaps, we will grow to understand what their concerns are. They may also grow to understand why modern farming techniques are beneficial.
Last weekend, I attended an event that was very much out of my comfort zone. I was there to share about modern farming practices. Most of the other attendees were from urban backgrounds, and some had much different opinions about food than I do.
It was understood that there most likely would be some challenging questions. And there were. The first question was, "so, what's your take on dairy?" My initial thought was, 'I drank a glass of milk on the way here.' My actual answer included, "dairy is part of a well rounded diet, moderation is good for most things, but what aspect of dairy are you wondering about?"
Several people mentioned that they were vegetarians and preferred local foods. I shared how our corn and soybean farm fits into the food system as being feed to livestock, used to produce ethanol, or exported. We discussed how it's more difficult to see how commodities fit into the food system compared to a vegetable seed that is planted and a few weeks later the produce can be consumed. In many conversations, I sensed an appreciation for farmers and a genuine curiosity to know more about how food is produced.
These conversations certainly stretched my comfort zone, but I came away feeling that they were exactly the type of conversations that each of us in agriculture needs to try to have more often.
How do you stretch yourself to have conversations about your farm with those outside your normal community, so you're not just 'preaching to the choir'?