From the Ground Up - Face of Agriculture

Production agriculture attracts a type of person who is independent, likes a challenge, and isn’t afraid of gambling and having a big part of his or her success or failure in any given year being a result of the decisions they make.

Unfortunately, for the agriculture industry, many of these folks don’t talk about what they do, they just do it. Some producers are beginning to realize that they need to be a part of the solution to help consumers connect to agriculture.

Dr. Doug Steele is director of Texas Agrilife Extension.

“When you walk into a grocery store, and you’re able to buy high quality, available, affordable food, whether it’s a box of cereal, or a processed pizza, or a wrapped steak, agriculture’s what provided that to you in a way that is affordable and a way that I think is the highest standard in the world today.”

Most people involved in agriculture agree that the industry hasn’t done a very good job of communicating this message to consumers. Richard Cortes farms in Bell County.

“You can’t just do all your business from a tractor seat. Sometimes you have to get out in the real world and talk to everybody else that doesn’t understand agriculture. We have to be talking about our business and our industry everywhere we go.”

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, longtime a champion of agriculture, agrees.

“The hardest thing for any of us to do who wants to advocate for ag and for rural is to get a face on a story. It’s not a high level number. Well we had two thousand that do this and four thousand who did that, we need faces on a story.”

Cortes says that farmers have credibility with the public, and they need to take advantage of that and tell their own story.

“The surveys we’ve seen is, people have confidence in the farmer himself or herself, and we’ve got to take advantage of that and be out there and talk to folks about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and we’re not being mean to animals and we’re not doing crazy things with chemicals and stuff like that. They have confidence, but we have to be the face of that speech.”

Dr. Steele notes that consumers do have a stake in agriculture.

“We need our urban partners and our communities to understand that when we talk about agriculture they have a vested interest in not only what we do, but also in helping us be successful.”