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Hanging Together
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To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, “If we do not all hang together, we will surely all hang separately.” So how does that relate to agriculture? The answer lies in the 20th Annual Kids Ag Day held this past Wednesday at the Mauler farm just north of Great Bend.
One wouldn’t think there was a need for a day devoted to exposing local school children to agriculture. After all Claflin, Ellinwood, Hoisington, and Great Bend are communities located in the heart of Kansas crop and livestock country. Yet two decades ago people in the industry from the Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau to agriculture retailors and producers were aware of the disconnect between the public and their knowledge of where their food came from and how it is produced. They knew this would become a larger problem and a lack of public knowledge would make their profession more difficult. And just as important, it would leave agriculture without a voice in the halls of power. Their solution was to initiate Kids Ag Day and expose fourth graders to various aspects of the industry in an informative yet fun way. The result was the 20th Annual event with almost all the schools in the county participating.
Last week at a get together for workers and sponsors someone asked how many children have gone through the event. The conservative estimate was well over 6,000 fourth graders. And that doesn’t include what they come home and relate to their parents and siblings. It also doesn’t include the coverage people have listened to over the years on Eagle Radio or read in the Tribune.
K-State just completed their own day bringing area school out to the Agronomy farm in Manhattan. And that’s in an area where K-State looms large. If you look around the state and even nation, this concept has taken off and there are numerous events exposing school children to agriculture. But this concept has expanded far beyond school children and one day a year.
While maybe a bit late in understanding the potential power and influence of modern technology and social media, almost every group involved in or supporting agriculture has a website and Facebook presence. They tweet, post videos, and even web/pod cast. It is common at conventions and conferences to have a minimum of one session devoted to getting the message out through effective social media.
To be successful, agriculture doesn’t have to reach or educate everyone. It’s like many vaccinations where you need a certain percentage of the populace immunized to prevent an epidemic. The same holds here where you only need inoculate a majority of the population with sufficient knowledge and the ability to sort fact from emotion to allow the two faces of this country, one urban and one rural, to hang together. If the two don’t hang together, both will suffer the long term consequences and hang separately.