Some people have the mistaken idea that farmers and ranchers are harming our environment. You hear it everywhere: at the coffee shop, church, public forums, traveling, even in the grocery.
Children arrive home from school and tell parents about harmful practices farmers are using on the land. Everywhere you go today people are concerned about the food they eat.
Few businesses are as open to public scrutiny as a farm or ranch in the United States. While farming and ranching practices occur in the open, the only picture many have of agriculture is what they read in newspapers, or see on television or social media. Even fewer people have set foot on a modern farm.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to engage with our customers and tell them about what we do in agriculture.
Today’s farmer and ranchers are doing their part to protect and improve the environment. They use such agricultural practices as early planting, pest control, good soil fertility conservation tillage and many other innovations that help grow more food while protecting the environment.
Tell them about this.
Farmers adjust practices to meet individual cropping conditions. Such practices can vary from farm to farm – even from field to field.
As in any other business, farmers and ranchers must manage their operations on a timely basis and use all available technology to improve quality and productivity. If they don’t they will not stay in business for long.
Today’s farmer has cut chemical usage by approximately 40 percent in many cases during the last couple of decades. Many no longer apply chemicals before planting. Instead, as the crop matures, farmers gauge potential weed pressure and apply herbicides only if needed.
Because farmers and ranchers are the first to come in contact with chemicals, they use them with care and according to instructions on the label. Farmers know chemicals can be toxic or harmful to people and the environment.
Throughout the growing season, farmers do their best to provide nutritious healthy food. From planting through harvest, they battle weather, weeds, insects and disease. Efficiency is their best defense against unstable world markets, political barriers and fringe groups who may attack their farming methods.
Farmers and ranchers must live in the environment they create. They know all too well the importance of keeping ground water clean and free of harmful products. More often than not, farmers drink from wells on their land. They understand their family drinks from the water they pump from the ground every day.
Farmers and ranchers can and will do more to improve their environment. They can continue to rely less on herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers. Agricultural producers can also conserve more water, plug abandoned wells, monitor grassland grazing and continue to implement environmentally sound techniques that will ensure preservation of the land.
Production agriculture works because it is flexible enough to accept and adapt to change. No agricultural system – or any other system for that matter – is perfect. Farmers and ranchers will continue to search for better ways to farm and ranch through research and education.
In the meantime, farmers and ranchers must engage through every avenue to tell our customers what goes on in agriculture. Take every opportunity to explain to customers that you are providing them with the safest food in the world.
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.