What do you think is the biggest public misconception about agriculture? How would you help to fix it?
This is an interesting question and one that I try and address with “city folks” every chance I get. To me, the biggest misconception is the total lack of comprehension of the vastness of agriculture, both in the U.S. and globally. With so many “eat local” buzzwords flying around, many people seem to think you can feed a whole city just by driving a few miles into the countryside. While eating locally produced food is not a bad thing, it is utterly impossible for whole cities to do so. The reality is our society desperately needs every farm in the U.S. from East to West and North to South to produce high quality food with maximum efficiency.
In the U.S. and many other parts of the world, the industry has evolved into highly efficient, highly specialized grain, fruit, nut, vegetable and meat-producing entities most of which are hundreds of miles from large population centers. The scope of corn, soybean, wheat, rice and cotton production in the US is really incomprehensible to most people. The sheer volume of fruit, nut and vegetable production is extraordinary. But, without such remarkable enterprise, we would not have the ability to produce abundance or the ability to stave off famine. Even with such capability, we see parts of the world continuing to suffer from malnutrition.
I try to fix this misconception by suggesting my non-ag friends should take a drive or even just get out a map and spend some time learning how much of our country is covered by farms. I also mention how many professional people it takes to make modern farming successful, even if farmers themselves make up less than two percent of the population. The scope of people involved, including college professors, extension experts, equipment manufacturers, food processors, energy suppliers, chemical and fertilizer manufacturers and distributors, crop consultants, grain handlers, railroads and many more is astonishing. It would be great if we could convince everyone how vast and important agriculture is to our society and what a huge role high technology in food production plays in their everyday lives.