Sept. 21 2022 11:38 AM

Shedding our stereotypes of agriculture is the only way for consumers to recognize its value, too.

Growing up in agriculture brings with it a set of predetermined biases that it’s time to overcome. If we can’t overcome ours, how do we expect consumers to overcome theirs?

I like to think of myself as a typical farm kid. I’ve grown up on our family dairy farm doing all the farm kid things. I’ve been covered in manure, chased cows in the middle of the night, and have more than one ‘I did something stupid with my siblings then tried to cover it up but just got in way more trouble’ story. I showed cows in 4-H, I got ridiculed in school for smelling like cows, and have been driving a tractor since I was 8. I also know the value of hard work, have felt the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing off a 60-acre hay field at 1 a.m., and have cultivated the compassion and respect for animals that only a farmer can truly appreciate. So much good comes from growing up a farm kid, but I want to talk about some of the bad.

We’d all like to believe we don’t stereotype or let preconceived notions sway our opinions, but they do. Growing up in agriculture, I feel that. Lately, and probably influenced more by social media, I’ve been seeing a few big biases in the ag community:

  1. Organic farming. Yikes. Reading those two words probably sent some farmers into the classic ‘hippy food’ rant. It’s still farming, and there’s room for all of us.

  2. Homesteading/pioneer farming. This is becoming a trend. Look, we all know this isn’t a lifestyle that can sustain the world, but if a few people want to use it to sustain themselves, let them.

  3. Almond ‘milk’ (juice). I hate that they call it milk, but some people just like it and that’s okay. Some drink because they can’t digest dairy, and that’s okay. Most almond farmers I know don’t condone the name or believe it replaces milk; they just want to make a living doing what they love to do, too.

  4. New farmers. Why do we ostracize new people? Don’t pretend it doesn’t happen because it’s happening right now. If you didn’t grow up in ag, for some reason we don’t believe you’re credible enough to be in it.

I’ll be honest, I feel these biases. I grew up with them. Even if it was never explicitly stated, somehow, we felt and still feel them. I’ve been working harder to retrain my brain when it comes to my biases. Do you want to know why? Because how we farmers feel about these things are how consumers feel about farmers. Most consumers don’t know or understand what we do, but if you ask the right questions and push a little, their opinions hold that little tinge of negativity.

If we’re going to ask them to change their opinions, maybe we should try harder to change ours.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.