Last night I had one of my best friends over for dinner. I needed to pick his brain and get some advice. His support, guidance and insight are things I treasure – even when I don’t agree – and any chance to sit around the table and chat is a good time. We might come from different backgrounds, but we share a similar passion: agriculture…or farming.
You see, we both have strong opinions on what the best term to use is. He prefers agriculture, I like the word farming. We had a “discussion” on why the other should change their mind. Neither of us won…but were were both right in a way.
My friend is a fourth generation farmer with an ag degree. He works on a large dairy and raises hay. He is a leader in the ag community. Farming, to him, conjures an outdated picture. Today’s agriculture is far removed from American Gothic. Agricultural professionals raise our food, wear suits, are involved in their community and civic organizations. They are educated, forward thinking, business leaders and (some) are even tech-savvy.
All of this is 100% true. And I agree that farmers are far from the romantic ideals so many of us hold on to. Sure, there’s likely to be a pick-up truck and a farm dog riding shot-gun, but it’s just as likely that there is a GPS in the John Deere tractor as they plant a field of corn.
I still prefer using the terms “farming” and “farmer.” As a marketer and communicator, I want to evoke the positive, warm feeling American Gothic and the like elicit. A familiar image or idea of farming is a great place to start a conversation. Got that happy picture in your head? Good, great! Now, here’s how today’s farming – big and small – hold onto the ideals, principles and culture that antiquated picture represented. Farming is still about family and community, no matter how the size of the farm. Today, the family has a degree, marketing skills, financial forecasting experience. The community in which the family farms is likely o be diverse, eclectic and contain more people living and working off the farm than on.
To me, when you use “agriculture” or “agricultural professional,” the image that comes to mind is big business and science. True or not, accurate or off-base, this isn’t the place from which I want to start a dialogue so I choose “farming.”
Which would you choose?