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NEW WORD: Too many nonfarmers seem to think they know more about agriculture than actual agricultural professionals: farmers.

No need to ‘agsplain’

The Back 40: Agsplaining is when someone explains ag to a farmer in a manner regarded as condescending.

Recently all the trendy feminists have been complaining about “mansplaining,” which is when a man explains something to a woman in a condescending or patronizing manner. Maybe I’m not in touch with my feminist side, but I can’t say I’ve encountered much mansplaining. What bothers me more is “agsplaining.” Too many non-farmers seem to think they know more about agriculture than actual agricultural professionals: farmers.

Mansplaining and agsplaining are different from ordinary explaining, because the ’splainers have the mistaken idea they know more about a particular topic than the person they are talking to. Ordinary explaining is how knowledge is shared, but ’splaining of any kind can result in eye rolling, arguments and incoherent rants on social media.  

I have heard mansplaining from a muffler mechanic and a manure pit additive salesman, but I can’t recall any examples of mansplaining from male farmers. That’s probably because most of the farmers I talk with actually do know more than I do. After all, the only agricultural topic on which I’m an expert is asking nosy questions about farming. Or maybe farmers see me writing down everything they say, and they don’t want to be caught mansplaining in print. In any case, I can’t really join my feminist sisters in complaining about the prevalence of mansplaining.

Agsplaining fairly common
On the other hand, agsplaining seems to be much too commonplace. Sometimes the ’splainer does have accurate information, but the information is nothing new to the farmers being addressed. For instance, I recently heard an environmental scientist tell a group of farmers that they should consider testing their soil so they could apply fertilizer based on the needs of their crops. Soil testing might have been a revolutionary new concept to him, but it certainly wasn’t new to any of the farmers in the group.

What’s even more infuriating is when an agsplainer comes up with some factually inaccurate idea and then spreads the misinformation. We’ve all seen those anti-Monsanto internet posts that talk about evil farmers spraying our food with GMOs. I don’t have any concerns about eating genetically modified organisms, but if someone else doesn’t want to eat them, that’s fine with me. What boggles my mind is that some people are willing to publicly oppose something they clearly don’t understand.

Agsplanations can boggle the mind
It’s hard to know what to do when confronted with an agsplanation. For instance, I recently had a conversation in the grocery store with a woman who was looking at a display of milk on sale. I helpfully commented that I had visited the dairy where the milk was bottled, and that the sale price was a good deal for organic milk. She answered that she was really glad to see a source of raw milk in the store, and she told me how much better it tasted because it didn’t have any hormones. She seemed doubtful when I explained that it was actually pasteurized and not raw, that the cream layer meant it was not homogenized, and that all milk has small amounts of naturally occurring hormones. I was going to go on about the differences between conventional and organic milk production, but for some reason she grabbed her milk and scurried off down Aisle 13.

Maybe, in her mind, I was the one doing too much agsplaining.

Keck writes from Raymond, Ohio.

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