by Danielle Beard
Parsons, Kansas —
This year’s Oklahoma Soybean Expo stepped outside the box of typical topics to help farm folks speak up for their industry.
Farm writer, broadcaster and blogger Trent Loos shared his passion for American agriculture and called for farmers to reach out to a woefully uneducated non-farm public.
“We need to tell the story of agriculture in a way people understand,” the well-known animal agriculture advocate said.
Loos explained it has been 14 years since he decided that everyone needs to do a better job of talking about ag.
“Sometimes those of us in farm life really struggle to communicate in a way other folks can understand,” he said.
Loos said this is a lesson he learned the hard way.
“I was flying out to Detroit,” Loos started. “One thing I always do before I board a plane is call Kelly (his wife).
“It was the second week in December and we were kidding goats back home, so the first thing I say was, ‘honey, did we have anymore kids today?’ ‘Another set of triplets!?’” he responded.
Loos said when he hung up the phone the lady next to him on the plane began lecturing him since “his wife was at home having triplets, and he wasn’t there to help her.”
He explained this conversation made him analyze all the things farmers and ranchers say as common industry lingo, that do not translate into anything the consumer can grasp.
“We communicate in a way nobody outside of agriculture could possibly understand and then we come together at meetings like this, and what do we always say?” Loos asked.
Answering his own question, he said, “We just need to tell the story.”
“Absolutely we need to tell the story,” emphasized. “But what I’m telling you is we need to do it in a way that is so elementary that we think it’s ridiculous.”
According to Loos, many think they can’t tell the ag story because they aren’t an expert or because they don’t have a PhD.
“You are an expert in your own experiences and all we’re saying is you need to share your experience and what you do,” he stressed.
Loos mentioned there are three universities studying whether or not plants feel pain, prompting him to ask the crowd, “Do you think in countries like Ethiopia or Mexico the average consumer cares whether or not a plant has feelings?
“No, but because we have done our job — particularly since the USDA was created in 1862 — we’ve become so efficient at converting resources into the essentials of life, that people now try to find something else to worry about,” he answered.
As a result, Loos explained this is why it is important to talk about agriculture in a way that resonates with the consumer.
“We have this built in heritage that tells us to take care of the land and the livestock and everything will take care of itself,” he said. “But unfortunately we have people who intentionally want to mislead you.”
According to Loos, when he began advocating in 1999 his greatest concern was that people didn’t know enough about where their food comes from. Now, he said, the problem is people know too much about where their food comes from.
“The is as Ronald Reagan said in 1960, ‘it’s not what they know, it’s too much of what they know isn’t so,” Loos stated.
So what should farmers and ranchers to help contradict the bad press the industry has attracted?
Work as a team, Loos suggests. “Remember we are all in this together.”
Engage in conversation, but also be sure and listen to concerns, he added. “The best advocates aren’t the best speakers, but the best listeners.
And finally, plant seeds of doubt.
“We aren’t going to change anyone’s mind right away, but give them information that makes them think, and question what they’ve been told previously,” Loos said.
In conclusion, he stated, “I have every degree of faith in the future of agriculture. Listen to your family, plant seeds of doubt and open a healthy conversation about agriculture.”
The schedule of speakers for the Feb. 13 event was filled with well-known names and informative sessions. Topics ranged from soybean production to the politics of agriculture with farm policy updates from Jody Campiche, Oklahoma State professor.
Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese discussed his perspective on Oklahoma agriculture and farmer-comedian Jay Hendren brought his act “from the field to the stage,” describing agriculture with a humor only farmers and ranchers could truly appreciate.
Rick Reimer, Oklahoma Soybean Board executive director, said the program layout was a response to what past attendees have requested through surveys.
More information on the Oklahoma Soybean Board is available at www.oksoy.org. £