'Hello, I'm From The Inquirer, And Have Questions

Nor' east Thinkin'

What I learned when a big city news reporter asked about Master Farmers

Published on: May 6, 2011

 

Little more than a week ago, a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer emailed then called with questions about the Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer program. She was nice enough, and appeared to be on a legitimate fact-finding mission rather than an investigative journalism crusade.

After visiting Walt and Ellen Moore at WalMoore Farms in Chester County, Pa., she had many questions about how Master Farmers are selected and what was exceptional about this farm. That didn't seem too hard.

But our ensuing conversation confirmed what I already knew: Her knowledge about agriculture was zero – zip.

Being a farm-raised kid, that was hard for me to imagine. She must not get out of the city block much. Here, the word "city block" refers to urban mindset.

Several times during almost an hour of questions, I praised her for trying to understand and for getting her facts correct. As I told her, "There's no such thing as a dumb question – just a stupid answer."

For example, she asked "What they were testing milk on the farm for?" At first, I was going to say it was probably for somatic cell bacteria count. Then, I thought, "Whoa! You can't say that to someone who might think all bacteria are deadly."

So I told her about how milk is tested for protein, butterfat and non-fat solids. And, farmers are paid for their milk based on those component values. She read back the information to me, and seemed to have it right.

Of course, I told her how so many dairy farmers struggle to make a living. After she asked why, another 10 to 15 minutes lapsed as I touched on all the milk quality, conservation, nutrient management and environmental regulations that farm families have to wrestle with. And that it comes off the top of their milk check before family living expenses.

She knew nothing about Cooperative Extension, let alone its educational mission. So after this little bit of exposure to urban media, I'm much more appreciative of all those who take the time and patience to educate media people. It's not an easy job. But somebody's got to do it.

The most important lesson from this exercise was: When you don't know the answer, don't bluff it. Just say, "I don't know."

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