Life experiences teach plenty to those willing to learn. From the time I was a small boy, I remember my dad, uncles and grandfather talking and debating the issues of the day whenever we visited one another.
As I grew older, I began to hear some of what they said. I began to understand what they were talking about. But it has taken me several decades to process, learn from and use what my elders were saying about the issues of their days.
About the time I was half way through high school, something he said finally sunk in. Grandpa Bert always said when you know a little about an issue, it’s easy to form an opinion. When you learn a little more, it becomes a little more difficult to make a decision. And when you learn even more about an issue, your decision becomes, “just plain hard.”
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of farmers and ranchers who often toil long days away by themselves. Sometimes they feel isolated with their backs against the wall. More than one farmer has expressed a feeling of, “It’s me against the world.”
Never before in agriculture has it been more important for farmers to express their basic wants, hopes and needs. Things like protection of personal property, a sound education for their children and a responsible, nonintrusive federal government, water usage to mention a few.
Never before has there been such an opportunity to express agriculture’s needs. Today there are hundreds of satellites in orbit around our globe. Our cable system is loaded with hundreds of networks. The information highway continues to speed forward and we can communicate with people around the world instantly.
Today’s technology allows individuals to access videos, music, news, weather, markets and consumer information – literally anything happening in our world today.
It’s been more than three decades since newspapers entered the era of national and international publications. In this country, Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal pioneered the way.
Magazines and newspapers from all over the world are on line today, available for anyone with the time and desire to read them. Of course they are still being shipped by mail. You can also read news, weather, markets and sports and screen after screen on your computer.
And that’s not even mentioning all the data out there on social media – you know Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest – you name it, there’s data out there. All you really need is time.
With all of these different information avenues at your fingertips, it may also be easy for some to tune out and turn off. Farmers, ranchers, businessmen, bankers and professionals cannot afford to do that. We must utilize these communication tools to tell our story. One way to help do this is by becoming active in the farm organizations and commodity groups of your choice. They can provide the vehicle to help you tell agriculture’s story while developing sound farming policy that must be communicated.
Agriculture finally arrived as a headliner during the farm crisis of the mid-‘80s. Every day, newspapers, radios, televisions and computers are chock full of stories on agriculture. Subjects range from food additives in processing to agricultural chemicals. Stories include animal welfare, cholesterol in the diet, sugar-less foods, the farm bill and finding ways to increase agricultural trade.
Remember, farmers and ranchers must continue to voice their message in the public information arena. Agriculture must utilize this medium to promote and persuade others to bring about change – change that will benefit agriculture and a society that relies on U.S. farmers and ranchers for the safest and most abundant food source in the world.
A Kansas citizen said it best more than 90 years ago, “This nation will survive, this state will prosper, the orderly business of life will go forward only if men can speak in whatever way given them to utter what their hearts hold – by voice, by postal card, by letter or by press.”
William Allen White wrote this in his Emporia Gazette during the post-World War I recession in 1922. These words ring true today.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.