As leaders, we are tasked with communicating about our industry to the public. But with an industry that is so complex, where do we even begin? With complicated terminology and new technology, the agriculture industry can be confusing to those who are not directly involved with it. Heck, even as someone who has been in the industry my entire life I still learn something new almost every single day. So when we took our trip to South Texas, I was awestruck. The challenges and information that were presented to us were outstanding. But, if I was naive to the issues people in production agriculture faced and I have been in the industry for years (or so I thought), how do we expect people who have never set foot on a farm to understand? And where do we start with the abundant information there is to learn in our industry.
However, I left South Texas with more questions than answers. With a declining population in production agriculture and an increasing world population to feed and clothe, what do we do? Most of the operations we met with were family farms that had been around for generations. But what about those who want to be involved and make a difference but don’t have the land or means necessary? I mean, they aren’t making any more land. Or what about the labor shortage? So many of the farmers we spoke with discussed the H-2A program, which hires foreign nationals temporarily because they struggle to find people to work for them. These are real issues that so many of us have not thought about or faced, but things our farmers and ranchers go through every single day.
The stories I listened to and issues I heard forced me out of my own little world and into the shoes of our production agriculture workers. Except after our trip, I loaded up onto a plane and left the farms and fields behind. But the thoughts and memories have stayed with me as I yearn to find my place and make a difference in our ever-changing world. This past semester I have also had the opportunity to research the public’s trust in science. Many people don’t trust science or agriculture because they simply do not understand it. If more people were able to tour farms and see what production agriculture actually looked like, they might be more inclined to trust it because they would understand what is going on. It’s easy for us to fall victim to the media, but going straight to the source allows us to bridge the gap between producer and consumer. Our South Texas trip allowed me to open my eyes and bridge my own gap that I did not even realize was there. Hearing the stories, taking the tours, and learning about the industry is what needs to happen to build back the trust and help people see the hard work that goes into agriculture. I will leave you with one last question: If we do not do something about it, who will?
Mckenna Pavelock is an agricultural communications major from Anderson, Texas, and a member of the MILE Program’s third cohort.