How to Create a Positive Conversation in Agriculture

CarolynCares Love Hope Optimism

Have you noticed a change in people’s attitudes on Social Media this winter? At first, I blamed it on the Polar Vortex. However, it hasn’t improved at all with the snow melt! The negative blog posts, personal attacks, and unnecessary use of inflammatory adjectives have really gotten me down. I’ve had troubles writing lately, because I feel like whatever positive I had to say about my farm, or agriculture in general, would be drowned out by all the negative posts and editorials written about what I do.

While looking at photos and quotes for my Wordless Wednesday posts, I noticed I gravitated towards certain themes. Positive Attitude. Kindness. Respect. The more I focused on the quotes relating to those themes, the better I felt. So, how can we create a positive conversation in agriculture amidst all the negativity?

1. Have a Positive Attitude. Let’s be real. Sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it on those days when it seems like everyone is trying to get under your skin. It’s okay to walk away before responding. A positively worded response can preserve most relationships, or help others to understand where you are coming from. The conversations you have today will influence how others see you tomorrow. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

2. Show a little Kindness. I think we sometimes get so wrapped up in “me” that we lose sight of what goes on outside of our little world. People love to make fun of labels on packages if they think those labels are unnecessary. Those labels were not meant for you…they were meant for those whose lives may be affected by the ingredients in that product. Gluten Free items are not only for those who suffer from Celiac Disease, but are also important for those with a wheat allergy. There are many people who are diagnosed with an illness, and are told by their doctor they need to avoid certain ingredients. They may not have a computer at home to check lists of approved foods, so the labels become very important to them. Just because it is not your label, does not mean it isn’t someone else’s. “In life you can never be too kind or too fair; everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load. When you go through your day expressing kindness and courtesy to all you meet, you leave behind a feeling of warmth and good cheer, and you help alleviate the burdens everyone is struggling with.” -Brian Tracy

3. Respect is more than the title to an Aretha Franklin song. Agriculture is so individual that there is a lot of room for disagreement. The most difficult thing to remember is that what works for me on my farm, and with my management style is not going to work for you. To respect the differences in styles, methods, crops, livestock raised, we must refrain from using the inflammatory adjectives that are only meant to hurt. Calling someone anti-science, a cult, or a mafia is no better than calling someone a shill, a factory farm, or toxic. Name calling is a sure way to destroy any credibility you may have had with consumers. We want to be the trusted source, yet we are constantly attacking each other because we are different. Instead, I think we need to embrace the diversity, and respect ourselves. “To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.” –Bono

Some may say it is wishful thinking to try and have a positive conversation in agriculture. I am confident it can be done. The change in attitude needs to start now. Are you with me?

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Author: Carolyn Olson

I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN. In 1988, I married my best friend, and moved to the farm. Jonathan and I have three daughters, and will soon have a son-in-law! I love life on the farm, and wouldn't trade it for anything!

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