By Yvette Tan
There is a lack of interest in agriculture in the mainstream, partly because it is seen as
unglamourous, and partly because people don’t realize how essential it is to, well, living. So how can agriculture workers and advocates help the public understand that we have to treat agriculture with the dignity and importance it deserves? Here are three ideas:
Food. As crazy as this sounds, not a lot of people understand that without farmers, we would starve. Conscientious chefs have been at the forefront of this endeavor, educating eaters on the importance of quality produce in the construction of a dish. Internationally, chefs Alice Waters have championed seasonal and local eating, while Rene Redzepi fascinated the world with his take on foraging. Local food advocates are doing the same thing, highlighting Pinoy flavors and indigenous crops and linking both to our culture. Alerting the eating public to the culinary possibilities, not to mention health properties, of buying local and indigenous, boosts demand and encourages farmers to grow crops that thrive in our climate.
Fun. It’s not enough to say ‘farmers grow the food you eat;’ it’s too far removed from most people’s experiences and places a burden on the conscience that, sadly, many would rather not think about. Humans naturally care about something they’re involved in. Encourage people to make agriculture part of their daily lives. Promote gardening in school and at home. Kids can plant–and eat–herbs. Urbanites can take care of a potted plant. Techies can immerse themselves in the many ways high technology and agriculture intersect, such as in indoor urban farming. Importantly, social media should be leveraged to show people the realities of the agricultural lifestyle–that yes, it can be challenging, but also deeply fulfilling, and–and this is important nowadays–extremely photogenic.
Funds. It is human nature to want what is comfortable, and the old image of the field-toiling farmer is the opposite of this. There is a need to elevate the plight of poor farmers, as well as show the public that agriculture can be profitable. The first is systematic and will take decades, needing decisive legislative and societal adjustments, among many others, before positive results can be felt. The second is easier to address, and may hopefully be a catalyst for progress in the former. It’s to show the public what the modern farmer looks like, that they can be young, fun-loving, and successful. It’s something that Agriculture magazine has been doing for decades, and it’s something that everyone can do now via social media. There is also a need to widen the idea of what ‘agri’ means to include pre and post harvest, as well as horticultural plants.
The best way to get a person to care about something is to make it part of their identity.
Seamlessly integrating agriculture into everyone’s lifestyle may, over time, help them care for the food system, and eventually, the planet.