Blinding Them With Science (and Production!)

Agriculture is speaking two languages to our customers that just don’t resonate:  
PRODUCTION, which they don't care about, and SCIENCE, which they don’t comprehend.

Here in the U.S. there are only 3.2 million farmers on 2 million farms feeding 320 million people, not to mention hundreds of millions worldwide. Oh, we also clothe people and and crank out a few billion barrels of biofuel.

Even more impressive is this Agriculture success story:  Earth’s population grew by 1.5 billion people over the past 20 years, to 7.4 billion.  Yet during that time, we reduced the number of chronically hungry Earthlings from 1 billion, to 800 million.

Simply put, we in Agriculture are doing amazing things and we should give ourselves a hand.  Actually, we should applaud the scientists, researchers, and progressive farmers pushing innovation who’ve made our productivity possible.

Those of us who’ve harvested a crop, raised a hog, or milked a cow, marvel at our advancements in productive capacity.   So much so that we talk about it incessantly with our customers.  But they don’t care. Here in the land of plenty, our consumers scarcely see scarcity.  Consequently, they don’t value how much food we make.  These consumers have also never farmed — pounds per day, or acres per bushel means nothing to them.

Touting our production to suburbia might even be a disservice.  Suburbanites hostile to modern Agriculture — made more so by cause groups opposed to us — equate huge production, with taxpayer funded Ag subsidies.

If Agricultural productivity is a foreign language to our consumers, Ag’s applied science is a foreign language from another galaxy.

Speaking of galaxies, I’ll put scientific ignorance in perspective:  In 2014 a National Science Foundation poll discovered that 26% of Americans don’t know Earth revolves around the Sun.

And you want to explain the scientifically proven safety of GMO’s to these people?

The same survey of Americans’ scientific knowledge revealed nearly half the populace wrongly believes antibiotics kill viruses.

Yet, you want to explain, in clinical terms, why human antibiotic resistance isn’t necessarily the fault of livestock farmers?

Opponents of modern Agriculture know America is not populated by science fair scholars.  That’s why our detractors use emotion, not science, to turn consumers against us.

Would scientifically literate people take dietary advice from Dr. Oz, who touts “miracle diets?”   Or shun vaccines that ended polio because Jenny McCarthy, an uneducated Playboy centerfold, told them to?

But consumers say, “I want to know where my food comes from.”
What consumers are really saying is, “Tell me a story that makes me feel good about my food.” 

Agricultural organizations prod us to have a conversation with our non-farming neighbors.  I’m all for it, but let’s be sure we’re talking a language they understand, delivering a message that resonates.

Damian Mason is an Agriculturist and speaker.  He’s produced truckloads of beef and milk, and completed 14 hours of college science but he knows consumers would rather see pretty pictures of cows in meadows than discuss that.