02 August 2015 - Public Perception of Agriculture???

As I write this edition of Samuelson Sez, I am looking forward to next Wednesday when I travel to Redwood Falls, Minnesota and FARMFEST, an outdoor farm show that I have not attended for several years. After spending the Noon hour on the live radio broadcast with fellow farm broadcaster Lynn Kettleson, I will join five other panelists on a FARMFEST Forum entitled “The Changing Public Perception of Agriculture - And What Can Be Done About It?”

Some of the questions they have proposed for discussion got me to thinking . . . have we been at all successful in getting non-farm consumers to understand what we do on farms and ranches and why?

Here are the first three suggested questions to lead off the discussion...

  • How much has the public perception of agriculture changed in the past couple of decades and why is it changing?
  • What role is the social media and the large cable media outlets playing in the perception of agriculture?
  • Are our movie and TV stars, sports figures, talk-show hosts and other public figures having a significant influence on the perception of agriculture?

    My quick answers to the three questions... 1 - Public perception has changed a great deal because people don’t understand the need for technology. 2 & 3 - Social media and 24-hour news channels play a large role, as do TV & movie stars and public figures...unfortunately.

After 55 years of covering agriculture daily on WGN Radio in downtown Chicago for Midwest farmers and Chicago city consumers; I look at these questions, and then I look at my emails and can’t help wondering - Have we been successful in telling the true story of what it takes to put food on our table, clothing on our back, a roof over our head and now, energy in our fuel tank.

There is no question that social media is playing a huge role today. My problem with social media is that anyone can put anything on the internet, someone will read it and believe it, never checking to see if it is factual. Today the public seems more willing to believe anonymous blogs than it does to believe science.

Yes, agriculture has changed, but it is still a family-owned and operated farm or ranch, with producers who are very concerned about the environment, and very concerned about the quality, nutrition and safety of the food they produce. I hope we have done something to benefit the image of agriculture, but frankly, I some time wonder if we really have, and frankly, I think we are going to have to work even harder to get our story told.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.