May 15 2024 09:07 AM

While those of us in agriculture take efforts to help consumers understand where their food comes from, we can also equip ourselves to answer more questions by branching out from what we know best.

Does it scare anyone else how little the general public knows about agriculture and their food supply? Just the other day, a cousin sent me a text asking about GMOs. She’s taking an environmental science class online, and the class was pretty split on their opinions about the topic and wanted to hear from someone who knew a little more than the general public. I told her that we use GMO corn and alfalfa seed and why we do. I explained that because of that technology, we’re able to use fewer and safer chemicals to grow our crops. I was honored and a little proud to be a source for someone looking for more knowledge.

The whole exchange left me thinking about how little the 98% of the population removed from agriculture knows about what we do. Honestly, it left me thinking about how little I know about the various sectors of agriculture. Dairy farming? That I know. Even though my cows seem to make it their job to constantly stump me, dairy farming is something I understand, at least. But even with beef farming, which I consider to be as close as it gets to dairy farming, I don’t understand nearly as much as I thought.

So, all of this left me with two big thoughts. First, every collegiate curriculum should include one agricultural-related required class. It doesn’t have to be about production ag, but it needs to be something. It could be anything, really. Food is the one thing we all have in common; shouldn’t we have at least a tiny bit of an idea of how it’s made or where it comes from? My general experience has been that when you give someone a small amount of information when it comes to their food, they get curious and start to seek out more. So why not teach them something, then give them the resources to learn more from the right people?

My second thought was how much do the people in agriculture really know about agriculture? Do you know how peanuts grow? I don’t. Honestly, as a dairy farmer, I always thought I just sort of understood all animal agriculture more than the average consumer, but I’m not sure that’s true. We know and understand enough to know that we trust the people who do what they do, but do we understand how or why they do it? Because this is me admitting that I know far less about agriculture as a whole than I thought I did.

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.