September 3, 2015

Talking ag with a vegan

I had an opportunity with CommonGround recently to attend a dinner with media, dietitians, nutritionists and bloggers. It was a great event to reach influencers who have day-to-day interaction with consumers who have questions about food and what farmers and ranchers do.

At my table were three dietitians: one was a pro-GMO spokesperson, one was in administration and one was ---- a vegan. I was really nervous when I first met him hoping that he didn't immediately ram down my throat about modern ag production practices. And I also hoped I could keep my cool and not let him dominate the conversation.

The conversation started well with the table being open to hearing what I do as a farm woman, mom and blogger, as well as learning about what each of them do in their field of practice. It was interesting to me that what we do on our farm was (for the most-part) okay, but when the words "environment", "GMO", "climate change", "economics" and more were brought up, things got a little more heated. In all of the research that my "new friend" had done, I had known of a study that refuted his information and was peer-reviewed and backed by sound-science. He rattled off numbers (I later found out this is what he does in his spare time - research!) and I was pretty impressed by the passion that he had for wanting to change the world to be meat-free and all organic - but he had his facts all wrong because he simply hasn't seen it done, been to a farm or ranch, and had a very naive view of the rest of the world.

We had a healthy debate on how unrealistic it is for the WHOLE world to turn meat-free and all organic. There is a place for these markets and I totally support that (I told him I even supported him being vegan - the sentiment was not returned). The biggest point that I wanted to get across to him was the availability of CHOICE that we have here in the U.S. I was grateful for the GMO-supporter-dietitian that was also at our table because she has done work all over the world and agreed that we have the safest, most affordable food supply in the world with the most choices.

While a little disappointed I wasn't able to "change" my vegan-friend's mind about modern agriculture, it was a good reminder that he is in the 10% of the population whose mind cannot be changed on a matter they think they know all about (I'm not saying all vegans are this way). While I came away from the dinner disheartened over what I "should have said" to try to change his mind, I realized that there were two other sets of ears at the table who were more likely in the "move-able middle", 80% of the population that we should really be focusing our efforts on who we can give information to for them to make an educated decision. The remaining 10% are those of us in agriculture and consumers we already have "on board" and supporting our cause.

It is an exciting time in agriculture to be able to share our story with a wide-consumer base of people who are truly interested in how their food is raised. What are you doing to reach out and share your story to the "move-able middle"?

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