Ag Under the Microscope

Telling Your Story

What we can learn from other industries who've faced similar public scrutiny

Published on: January 15, 2014

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Bruce Vincent talk. He reminded me that agriculture is not the only industry that has faced public scrutiny, and there are lessons that we can learn from those experiences. 

Of course, one of the key differences is that the era in which agriculture is coming under public attack is in the midst of social media.

Vincent is a logger from Libby, Montana. His family was part of the logging industry since the early 1900's. As he described, the beginning of the end was 20-25 years ago when the logging industry had a collision of visions with others with others who didn't understand the benefits the logging industry provides. 

As Bruce described, these are some of the similarities the logging industry has to agriculture:

-97% of logging businesses are family owned

-Loggers have a deep sense of conservation and stewardship

-The logging industry is deeply ingrained in many of these families. It's a family business, and many of them want their children to be raised as they were.

Until listening to Vincent speak, I really had never given much thought to the logging industry, how they supply raw materials, and the benefits of logging as a step in forest fire management. 

My own reflection on the logging industry seems similar to how a lot of people likely think about food production. 

In America, food is just at the grocery store, ready for us to buy, and we go on our way. But, when the public stops to think about how food is raised, one recognizes that there are so many more steps involved.

Some of those steps are not appealing to the public. 

Food is personal not only to us, but also the ones we love and feed at home. When people stop to think about where their food comes from, they first want to do research. Research in 2014 is not going to your nearest farmer friend, it is searching Google. And Google is full of information about how farmers (supposedly) raise their food. 

Once people consult Google, they find a plethora of information about the horrors that are going on down on the farm. Fear takes over; fear-mongers sell books, and people demand change – today meaning reform through legal battles and changes to the law. Yet, so much of this well-intended research does not include a farmer who is actually growing crops.

I feel like I have new eyes on this subject after hearing from a logger who is now traveling and sharing with others, to look at similar circumstances which resulted in real change in his industry.

What other industries have faced similar scrutiny? As farmers, what lessons can we learn from how those industries handled that scrutiny?