This last Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend one of Lincoln's Earth Day events to help promote ethanol for the Nebraska Corn Board. This was the first time I had ever attended an "Earth Day" event, and before that day I didn't even know much about Earth Day.
When I first arrived I found myself in a diverse group of people, people that probably aren't real fond of modern day agriculture. I wasn't sure what to expect for the day and was expecting to be criticized since I was representing agriculture. However, I ended up having a great time interacting with people who stopped by our booth. A majority of the people that did stop by our booth were supportive of ethanol, and if they weren't supportive, they wanted to learn more!
As the day went on, I ended up having a great conversation with a gentleman about ethanol, which eventually turned into a discussion about modern day agriculture. I found it interesting that he was very supportive of the ethanol industry and wanted to see ethanol offered at more fuel retailers in Lincoln. However, as supportive as he was about ethanol, he wasn't as supportive of modern day agriculture and questioned a lot of what farmers are doing. At that point, our conversation turned away from ethanol and started into a discussion about today's agricultural practices.
Before we even began talking, he said he probably shouldn't say too much since I was part of the Ag community. However, I told him that I was really interested in hearing his views as I come from a family farm and wanted to learn more about their concerns. He then began telling me that he believed GMO crops are bad and how they are harming both the planet and humans. He also said "Big Ag" is a problem and that they cause of a lot of the problems. I then asked him to define "Big Ag" for me since Big Ag gets thrown around a lot but it gets defined differently between people. He then responded that Big Ag meant large companies like Monsanto and even large farms. He said these are the people who are polluting the environment. He said farmers are using up all the resources and are also using chemicals that are harmful to ecosystems. Our conversation ended up lasting for about a half hour discussing these issues while at the same time I responded to his questions and concerns.
Overall, I felt the conversation was good and it ended up giving me a different perspective on how we should approach individuals who question modern day agriculture. I learned that those of us in agriculture need to be willing to take the listening role instead of the defensive one at times. Sometimes the concerns they have, such as the environment, are the same ones that we have. Yet, if we don't listen, how are we suppose to know? It is hard to fight something when you don't even know what you're fighting. To be honest, that actually goes with anything in life. Before you can address something, it is always good to know what you are addressing first. So if you are ever in one of those situations, be sure to take the opportunity to listen even if the other person's perspective might be different from yours. In the end, it opens the door for dialogue about these issues!