Common Ground

ReachOut: Common Ground from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

In Europe, there is currently a group trying to bring one of our industry partners (a notable industry leader) to a tribunal for crimes against humanity related to GMOs.

Now, I know my audience, and I know that you all think that this is complete stupidity.

And I agree.

But stupid or not, it’s happening, and what it says about our industry—or, more specifically, the reputation that our industry has on a multi-national level—needs our attention.  There is a huge disconnect between the average citizen and the average farmer, in the good ol’ U.S. of A. for sure, but in many places across the globe.  The average American citizen seems to believe that farmers are out ruining resources.  The average American farmer then thinks that the average American citizen is silly and wrong.  And not only does the disconnect between us grow, but the tone in the conversation grows coarser and tinny.

Chipotle, for example.

Though I agree that the current happenings in Europe are a bit unbelievable, I also have to admit that I’m tired of this disconnect and I’m tired of the ever-worsening tone between the different sides.  No good is coming from it and no good ever will.

If I had to pin down the biggest problem in our world today, I’d stick that pin on extremism.  We’re too focused on our differences, on defending our side, on drawing our lines.  And, well, you can turn on the news and see exactly where this has gotten us.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here again: the answer is always in the “and.”  Defining our differences, defending our side, drawing our lines only grows the disconnect, feeds the extremism, and ends badly for all of us.  What we need instead is to listen.


And find the common ground.  In our instance, the average American farmer and average American citizen actually share a whole lot of common ground, so it doesn’t take long to find.  We all want our food to be safe, affordable, and accessible.  We all want to preserve our resources for our children and grandchildren, to pass on a healthy and robust planet to them so that they, like us, can live healthy and robust lives on it.  Long, healthy, and robust lives.

There’s a lot of misinformation that fuels the fear of GMOs and missing information that might combat or ameliorate that fear.  The “other side” is well-marketed (ahem, Dr. Oz) and passionate.  And people don’t understand that one of the quickest ways to never see a starving child on a daytime commercial ever again is the adoption of GMOs (their adoption, by the by, is growing fastest in places like Africa, where food is difficult to grow and desperately needed).

And I could go on a big, long fact binge here about all the positives of GMOs, but you know what?  It wouldn’t help.  Facts don’t win emotional arguments.  Connection does.

Dr. Oz is out there connecting with the average American on TV, in magazines, and in stores.  We are not.  But we need to be.

The conversation about our industry is being had.  We didn’t start it—and we’re definitely at the short end of it—but it’s time to join in nonetheless.  If we don’t tell our story, either someone else will and will do it poorly for us or someone else won’t and the other side will remain in the misinformed and kind of frightening echo chamber they’re in right now.

I’ve written this same call to action many times and I suspect that it’s not something you’re all super excited about.  You’re busy practicing your livelihood and taking care of your family, friends, and neighbors.  I don’t think that you need to do much more than that actually, though I might ask you to talk about your livelihood a bit more to said family, friends, and neighbors (and political representatives if you’d happen to get the chance).  You might just see it as talking: I see it as the best avenue to preserve our livelihoods.  When you talk about what you do, you spread (correct) information and experience.  You humanize a demonized industry.  You connect on a personal level to the people you feed, clothe, and fuel.

The consumer will drive the future of our industry.  We can have a say in it, so long as we connect and share our side, too.