Farm Progress

Commentary: A trip to eastern Washington offers a refreshing look at today's agriculture.

Willie Vogt 1, Editorial Director, Farm Progress

July 26, 2017

3 Min Read
BEAUTIFUL CROP: Wheat north of Moses Lake, Wash., looks pretty good just before harvest 2017.

As I write this column I'm sitting in a hotel room in Spokane, Wash., after two days of meeting with folks in the region. Without giving away future coverage, I want to say I'm optimistic. Given the weather, wheat prices, the rise and fall of cattle prices, and the general attitude, the folks I talked with are look at the bright side — and for good reason.

There's a solid-looking crop of wheat in the field, and from what I saw, the onion seed, canola and alfalfa crops look pretty good, too. As usual, give a farmer a good crop, and there's the sense he can make a profit with that grain in the bin or that forage in the bale.

And that's the message I got. Driving cross-country across an area filled with wheat ready to harvest, there's the wonder and beauty of a part of the world that gets about a foot of rain a year. These producers know how to make things work no matter where the market goes.

Desire to tell story of agriculture
And while I didn't plan it this way, the people I spoke with also want to tell the story of agriculture. They want to share what they do and help others share what they do as well. This is the message that resonated. They accept the responsibility of sharing with a curious public just what's happening down on the farm.

And they're finding curious readers just want answers; they're not bringing an agenda to the table — so far — about what's covered, or how things work. They don't see the "haters," because their storytelling is the truth about the work they're doing to raise crops, or put up custom forages, and more.

Social media plays a part. Putting yourself out there is important — and perhaps the hardest thing to do, even in a small community where you may know many of the folks in town. Know, however, that you don't know them all and many have not been on a farm for some time, even if you're talking about a small town of 400 people.

And perhaps that's the message I want to convey. There's energy here to tell that story, and with a little guidance that story will reach more people. The consumer is hungry for information from the farmer, not General Mills, Frito-Lay, or some other food company. They want to know why you do what you do. So here are some tips if you're inclined to take up the challenge of sharing ag's story.

Get others involved. You have hired hands on the farm: Would they be able to answer a passerby's question about what they're doing in the field if someone stops them during fieldwork? Sounds silly, but consumers driving in the country may want to stop a sprayer or tillage rig to better understand what you're doing. Everyone in the operation should know, so it doesn't appear you're hiding something.

Reach out to groups. You can't wait for folks to come to you, so start in town with small groups. Perhaps the school, or local library, has a group interested in learning more about farming. Perhaps there's a film being shown in town — like "Farmland" or "Food Evolution" — and people seeing it have questions. Your operation could be a meeting place for further discussion. Create new opportunities to build a dialogue.

Get help. Farm groups in your state, from grain grower groups to Farm Bureau organizations, have resources that could help you tell that story. Perhaps they're looking for more farmers to help with the effort and don't know about you. It's worth considering.

Reaching out to consumers actively is a way to help build a dialogue. You won't always change minds, but a better-informed consumer is a good thing. Good luck.

About the Author(s)

Willie Vogt 1

Editorial Director, Farm Progress

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