Blake Hurst, Missouri Farmer and President of the Missouri Farm Bureau, wrote "Farming Deserves More Respect," an opinion piece that appeared on the Kansas City Star website.
It's an intelligent and well-written article that spoke to me in three major themes – consumers, technology and nostalgia.
Consumers in our business are a given. We provide an essential component that all humans require. Technology is ever changing, has and will be something every industry deals with. But name one other industry where nostalgia plays such a pivotal role.
One sentence in Hurst's article stands out to me: "They are bi-coastal experts on agriculture, armed with a touching nostalgia for a life they never lived."
He is speaking of our industry's critics, but as I read and re-read this one sentence the gears in my head just kept turning and random thoughts kept coming together for me.
People love connections. Connection to things, to other people, to happy situations, even to tragedy. Tell someone you live, work or own a farm and nine times out of ten they will speak of their grandpa's or uncle's farm from when they were a kid. People love connections and connections bring about nostalgia.
Nostalgia is a big puzzle piece in the perception of agriculture. Everyone wants cheaper, better food at their fingertips but raised just like it looks in Norman Rockwell pictures – the way they remember their visits to relatives' farms.
Today's farms are to look and behave in a way that invokes nostalgia, but Walmart is to have everything consumers need, regardless of the season. They want wholesome food that is healthy and available in abundant quantities. Clearly, there is a disconnect, and nostalgia plays a huge role in this disconnect.
"Know this about me, and most farmers: We're in this for the long haul," says Hurst. "If I'm using a new method or a new technology, I'm convinced that it's not only the right thing for me, but for my grandkids as well."
But what consumers see is that farmers doing it differently than your great grandparents or their great grandparents. Because that triggers their perception of nostalgia, they tend to assume it is negative.