By Rick McNary on March 17, 2021
The award I received from Kansas Farm Bureau for being a "Friend of Agriculture" is the greatest honor I've ever received outside of being called a husband, Dad and Grandpa. My Dad told me not to brag, but, doggone it, this is something I'm very proud of and, if I get struck by lightning for being too boastful, so be it; I'll fry a happy man.
To be considered a friend by people whom I admire more than any other group in America, especially since I'm not a farmer, is something I want to encourage you to do, also. Here are some suggestions:
1. Get to know one, or more, personally.
I know this about farmers: 99 percent of them are super friendly, but a bit shy. Mostly it’s because they work from before the sunrise until after the sun sets so they don’t have a lot of time for socializing and, like most of us, hang around other people like them. If you don’t know how to meet them, check with your County Farm Bureau, which is in every state in the nation.
2. Learn about who they are and what they do.
I’ll give you the best conversation starter ever: “So, tell me, what do you enjoy about farming?” Here’s another one: “So, why is soil health so important?” Better yet, try this one: “How many generations has your family been farming?” Be careful, if you ask these questions, you might not get them to stop talking.
3. Buy things directly from them.
Although you technically buy from a farmer every time you buy food, there are a lot of machines and a lot of people making money between that farmer and you. However, there’s a new type of movement going on where farmers are selling directly to the public. On the farmer's side, this is called “‘direct to consumer sales.” On the consumer side, we know it as, “Hey, I’m buying my meat, veggies, dairy, etc., from (name of the farmer) and I love knowing who is growing my food and how they do it!” If you need a place to find them and shop, visit www.shopkansasfarms.com and look for them there.
4. Invite them to speak to your group, interview them on your podcast, TV, radio, or write a blog about them.
Although shy, once you ask those questions above (I’ve been writing about farmers going on five years and those are always my first three questions), you will find just how passionate farmers are about what they do. Are you a teacher? There is an abundance of Ag in the Classroom resources for you.
5. Put a sign up celebrating them.
There are signs you can get that read, “One Kansas Farmer Feeds 155 People + You.” You can purchase them from Kansas Agri-Women. I’ll bet you can find a farmer more than happy to let you put it up wherever people can see it.
6. Ask them to serve on a board of directors.
Farmers are the most varied experts in multiple disciplines that I’ve ever known. The nature of farming requires knowing global economies, meteorology, finances, real estate, business development, strategic planning, marketing, engineering, mechanics, construction and, you name it, they are good at it.
7. Ask them to give you a tour or ride along with them.
Farmers are proud of what they do and they love showing people their lifestyle. Be careful, you might get a bit of barnyard on your boots and that’s OK, it’s good for you.
8. Say nice things about them both to them and to your friends.
Consumer confidence in farmers is at an all-time high, but farmers don’t always hear that so send them an email, drop them a handwritten note or tell them in person how much you admire them. You see, they have some pretty serious enemies who mean them harm and want to end their way of life, and sometimes that’s all that farmers hear; the wild-eyed fanatics who have it out for them. Have you heard of agroterrorism? Yep, some are so malicious they will destroy crops, machinery and buildings.
9. Learn to grow things yourself.
In writing about farmers, I have learned this; they love to grow things. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a plant or animal, farmers love helping things grow. As I’ve learned to garden the last few years and even raise some backyard chickens, I’ve come to respect farmers even more for how difficult it is to keep things alive and producing well. Except for weeds. I hate weeds and so do they. In fact, ask them about the No. 1 enemy of a farmer who grows crops, the pigweed. One plant can produce anywhere from 500,000 to 700,000 seeds that can take over a field, choking out their crops.
10. Follow them on social media.
Some like Facebook, some like Instagram, while others prefer Twitter, but most use one, if not all, of those platforms. There’s probably no better way to know what they do, every day, than by following them. Please interact with them, they love it when people engage with them. Every once in a while, thank them. You’ll make their day.
We can all be a “Friend of Agriculture.” Do one, or more, of these 10 things and you’ll fall in love with them just like I have.