Welcome to Tru Agvocates!November 3, 2015
The origins of the Tru Agvocates blog: a bit of an explanation…
More than at any other time in my life, agriculture is a topic of public discussion, and not just at the small-town greasy-spoon cafe. Agriculture is the subject of NY Times bestsellers, award-winning documentaries, and headline-grabbing reports from the World Health Organization (WHO). From The Omnivore’s Dilemma to The Food Police, from Food, Inc. to Farmland, and most recently to the WHO’s indictment of red meat, agriculture seems to have gone from the background “elevator music” of our lives to the main act on center stage.
And then there’s social media! Not only does the latest press release from Subway or Applegate Farms ricochet around the internet like a stray bullet, farmers themselves are increasingly wading into the social media fray. Organizations like the U.S. Farmers and Rancher’s Alliance (USFRA) have encouraged farmers to “tell their story” and farmers have responded, with a host of blogs and presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and virtually every other platform. (Some of my favorites to follow are Ryan Goodman’s Agriculture Proud blog and Kate Lambert’s Uptown Girl blog. Even a couple of my former students are now seasoned veteran farm bloggers: Katie Dallam-Pratt at Rural Route 2 and Laura Blomme at The Blomme’N Coop).
In general, I think that all of this public attention on agriculture is, on balance, a good thing. People should be interested in where their food comes from and how it gets to their plate. Social media channels provide a platform for farmers to communicate in first-person with a broad swath of the public about how and why they go about the business of producing the crops and livestock that become our food, fiber, fuel, and shelter. Mass media headlines about agriculture, even when negative, create “teachable moments”.
Yet, despite their ubiquitous and often skillful social media presence, there is a sense that farmers are losing the social media battle over public perception of agriculture.
That is a very long explanation of the motivation for creating this blog and the class from which it originates. After years of teaching a course entitled “Ethical Issues in Sustainable Agriculture”, where current topics in global food security, animal welfare, and resource use are the centerpiece of student discussions, I decided to offer a special topics course called “Communicating about Agriculture”. The idea was that a small group of students choosing this elective course would continue those discussions from the “Ethical Issues” class, but also engage directly in the public conversation about these topics through a blog and on social media.
This blog will feature posts from each of the students in the class. The topics will be as varied as the students in the class: not all share the same interests or ideology regarding food and agriculture; not all are Agriculture majors; not all will enter the agricultural work force. But all ARE interested in food and agriculture. The common link between the posts is that all of them will represent direct student engagement with the food and agricultural system.
The students have entitled their blog “Tru Agvocates” (Truman + Agriculture + Advocates). We hope you enjoy it.
-Michael Seipel, Professor of Agriculture, Truman State University