We are told we live in the age of information and have for at least several decades. Information, specifically access to information, is an asset as valuable as money. “Knowledge is power” is a slogan used in advertising and is first attributed to Sir Francis Bacon in 1597. Governments spend billions of dollars annually gathering information on almost everything imaginable. Information, or lack thereof, has decided the fates of nations, the success of companies, and having necessary information is vital to all of us in our everyday lives. Through formal education, on the job training, connections with others, or trial and error we obtain the necessary information for our careers or businesses.
Today’s society lives in the golden age of information access. It isn’t necessary to review all the avenues of information access in modern society. Technology allows instant access twenty four hours a day across a broad spectrum of platforms from traditional media (print, radio, and television) to constantly evolving social media (the web, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter). The difficulty faced by society today isn’t a lack of information but an overwhelming amount. The problem of too much is exacerbated by the difficulty in determining the accuracy and separating fact from opinion. What does this have to do with agriculture? Agriculture faces two major dilemmas regarding information.
First is the ongoing debate across all forms of media regarding the practices and technologies involved in agriculture. What agriculture is and does vs. what those opposed to modern agriculture says agriculture is. Chemical use, GMOs, livestock practices, and the list goes on and on. There isn’t a need to review the sensational and often scary claims here. Those opposed to modern production practices have taken advantage of information platforms from the beginning. Those involved in all aspects of developing, implementing, and using these practices, from producer groups to land grant universities and agriculture industries have also taken to the media, even social media platforms, to combat what they view as sensationalism and misinformation.
The problems the agriculture industry has to overcome are twofold. Agriculture came to the information game, particularly social media, a bit late. However, the industry has made huge leaps in getting its message out. The larger problem is getting society to pay attention to their message. Those opposed are very effective in conveying a sensational, emotional message. Agriculture’s approach has been twofold. Correct those practices exposed that need correcting and calmly addressing with facts (i.e. the truth) the accusations from the other side. It can be very difficult to overcome the emotional oomph of sensationalism.
Second is an opportunity. The agricultural industry is booming, even with lower prices. There is a huge demand for workers in a variety of good paying jobs that require certificates and two-year degrees. The industry, and institutions like Barton Community College, are struggling to find the right avenues and methods to get the word out regarding these opportunities.