Jolley: Five Minutes with Michele Payn-Knoper and the food fight
I do believe in the value of biotechnology—and would point to the yield results from the drought of 2012 as an example of why—yet I also know we must do a better job of explaining this tool to our friends and neighbors. Consider the fear put into suburban mom who has never met a farmer when she hears "genetically modified organism." Words matter, but our ability to stand up and explain why we choose to use different practices is also critical -only after we try to genuinely listen to the concerns of mainstream.
Q. So many foodies seem to have a fondness for the stereotypical and non-existent farms that are found only on Hallmark cards – the nicely painted red barn, the white picket fence around the old farm house with a few chickens pecking around the front yard. Your new book describes something far different; we might call it high tech farming. You talk about “farmers who don’t wear overalls.” Is there an unbridgeable disconnect between urbanites who want to hang on to that romantic notion and the reality of modern farming?
A. Frankly, I think we need to take some responsibility for the romanticized view that some have of farming. If we reflect back over the last few decades, we haven't done our jobs. Sure, we've improved animal care, reduced environmental impact and improved efficiency—but we have not talked about how or why with the 98.5% of people not on a farm. Today's agriculture requires each of us to take the time on a daily basis to have a conversation with people around the food plate. I recommend 15 minutes/day to connect with others, whether it's having a conversation in your church parking lot, posting a photo on Instagram/Facebook with a descriptive caption, responding to a couple of blog posts, talking about how you're working cattle with your friends, or tweeting as a part of #FoodChat.
No More Food Fights! cites Center for Food Integrity studies that point out the importance of connecting on values. If agriculture connects on values and hot buttons—we bridge the divide. If we lead with science and technical farm talk, the disconnect becomes unbridgeable. I believe agriculture and anyone interested in food deserves better than that, don’t you?
Q. Talking with one another means conducting a two way, respectful conversation – urban dwellers respecting the agricultural community and vice versa. I’ve seen some very disrespectful comments coming from both sides. How do you convince these combatants to shake hands and come out NOT fighting?