Perception verses Reality

Recently I was asked to appear on a three-person panel to discuss modern agriculture in a heavily agriculture-based area. The people in attendance were from all walks of the community. It was not my typical audience where I traditionally am speaking to my peers. I am not certain which side learned more that day? The other two people on my side of the panel did an excellent job of speaking to the audience. They were neither too technical not so simplistic to serve no real message.  The underlying message that I took from this day was that here in the heart of agriculture, land not inner city, we were totally a mystery to these interested people.

I suppose I expected a greater appreciation of agriculture here in farm land. I did not expect those who have lived their entire life with concrete verses soil under their feet to appreciate our challenges. The group was attentive but almost in shock when hearing the individual financial, compliance and marketing challenges that farms were up against. In the end, I got the feeling they saw us as a group who had just informed them that Santa Claus was a myth. They wanted the safety of knowing their food, which was grown just down the road, was safe and CHEAP. One man came up to me at the end and stated that he really did not care about our challenges. He had more than enough of his own. He wanted his food “perfect and cheaper.”

I personally dislike when people throw statistics at me to win their point. It is fair to state that today

Paul Baker,
Executive Director
NYSHS

Americans have very little knowledge of 2018 agriculture. They all have busy days and too many distractions to really care if we are being profitable or over legislated. What they see is that apples in the retail aisle are priced in dollars per pound not pennies. They only see perfect cosmetic fruit and must assume this is simply how Mother Nature delivers it to us. Since they are all consumers they feel they have the right to address an opinion on how we farm regardless if it has any reality to their desires. For example, they wish us to deliver this cosmetically perfect fruit to them totally organic and pesticide free. They also want us to do this with the minimum use of the ten fingers we seem to feel are critical to this delivery. Life should be so simple.

I personally had hopes that the millennials would bring a new awareness to the science of modern agriculture. I had hoped that they would not be so easily swayed when the topics of GMOs and the true safety of all our food supplies grown within our borders.  This does not seem to be the reality. This group wants more organic and absolutely zero GMOs. They do not wish to understand how modern agriculture techniques can reduce pesticide and fertilizer usage. They do not want to know why we need to import our labor when we have US citizens on unemployment. In short, we seem to be a group that wishes to ignore progress and continue to farm as we have for centuries. Here their “perception is reality.”

I take from this experience that we are even more in need of consumer education. Since we are all consumers we should share a common respect for the process of producing that food supply. I was wrong to assume that there was a stark difference between the people living in a rural setting verses an urban one. In fact, people living in the rural see first-hand the expensive machines going by their homes that in many instances are worth more than their homes. Hard to feel compassion for those who can afford such machines.

I feel that marketing and new opportunities to address the public need to address this reality. We each fear what we do not understand. No one likes the first day of school or the first day on a new job. We each find ways to comfort ourselves as to what is happening outside of our world. We need to invest in finding ways to make their reality based upon truth more so than perception. We need to articulate our story and not allow all the messaging to flow from uninformed sources. We live in a world that if it appears on your phone it must be true. If we wish to be understood, we must be willing to invest in the message.

 

PSA Grower Training Courses

The PSA Grower Training Course satisfies the FSMA Produce Safety Rule training requirements which states “At least one supervisor or responsible party for your farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the Food and Drug Administration.”

Soil Summit

Cornell experts to convene Soil Summit  
GENEVA, NY – Soil amendments such as raw manure offer clear benefits to agricultural production, but they can also pose potential environmental and food safety risks if not handled properly. The Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule outlines some requirements for using soil amendments because of the microbial risks associated with their use.  Raw manure has been shown to have a higher potential to contain foodborne pathogens that can cause illness, especially if fruits and vegetables become contaminated, either directly (e.g., improper application or processing of compost) or indirectly (e.g., through contaminated irrigation water from runoff).
To discuss the benefits and challenges of using soil amendments such as raw manure and compost relative to the safety of fresh fruit and vegetable production, Cornell food safety experts are convening a summit on March 28-29, 2017 . The Soil Summit will provide the opportunity for produce growers, educators, and researchers to discuss and identify barriers to using/producing compost while also identifying management strategies, resources, and additional support necessary to support growers in minimizing food safety risks on the farm, especially when using raw manure.
Held at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, the summit will address the need to support produce growers in identifying management options that preserve the benefits and minimize the risks from using soil amendments such as manure and compost, while also addressing the environmental impacts. The summit will include presentations and break out discussions, and provide participants a better understanding of current research and risk assessment efforts by the U.S Food and Drug Administration. Participants will learn details about the final Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule and the standards it sets in the use of biological soil amendments of animal origin and human waste.
The summit costs $100.