Connecting with a world that craves good news
While there’s a lot of big iron at the Farm Progress Show, there’s a wealth of other news just waiting to be told, like the Couser Modern Ag Experience Farm. Telling these stories might be one of the most important things we can do in farming today.
“There aren’t too many farmers here tonight, and that’s by design,” emphasized Bill Couser as he welcomed guests to his family’s Modern Ag Experience Farm near Nevada. “I’m tired of preaching to the choir. It’s time for us to step up to the plate, build partnerships and bring communities together.”
You couldn’t have asked for a better evening than August 29 to bring people together. While thunderstorms shut down the Farm Progress Show by noon on opening day, August 29 (day two) brought blue skies, warm weather and a stunning sunset. After the Farm Progress Show closed at 5 p.m., Couser, his wife, Nancy, and son Tim literally welcomed people from all walks of life into a big tent on their farm for an unforgettable evening.
Guests not only enjoyed a savory BBQ meal but saw firsthand how farmers are using the tools of modern agriculture and climate-smart farming practices to reduce the impact of agriculture on our environment. People asked questions and took photos around the farm as they learned how cover crops, reduced tillage and precise nutrient management are helping improve water quality, enhance soil health, reduce nutrient loss and improve wildlife habitat.
To me, the story was clear –farmers are working hard to protect our environment and precious natural resources while producing high quality food for a growing population. But what would city people think?
I got my answer by the end of the evening when I met some friendly folks on their way back to their cars. One was the mayor of Ames, while the other was an Iowa State University professor who serves on the Ames City Council.
“What will stick with you about tonight’s event?” I asked.
The science and technology in modern ag, replied the mayor. “The Couser family’s passion for sharing their story,” added the city councilwoman. Both acknowledged the value of bringing people together to learn from each other.
“It’s too easy to paint with a broad brush and say, ‘All farmers are bad,’ or “All urban people just don’t understand farming,’” the mayor told me. “It’s like the old question, though, about how can you hate me? You don’t even know me.”
I couldn’t agree more.
As I share stories from our farm on social media and other platforms, my purpose isn’t really to talk with other farmers, although I love my farm friends. I want to connect with non-farm people who may not know a lot about modern farming but are still connected to ag through the food they eat, the water they drink and the air they breathe.
While I can’t always host on-farm events like the Modern Ag Experience, I can pull out my smartphone, take a picture of the beauty and conservation around me and share stories like this one I posted to Facebook on Labor Day:
“The flicker of a dragonfly’s wings darting above the water. A small fish wriggling along in the rippling stream. The flutter of a bird’s wings. Water so clear I can see the gravel in the creek bottom and watch submerged grasses along the edge of the buffer strip sway in the current. Vibrant yellow prairie flowers accenting the landscape that gives way to fields of soybeans and corn. This is my view of Prairie Creek today, and I’m glad Maggie the Red Heeler and I can share a glimpse from farm country with you.”
One friend replied, “So refreshing to read something positive and appreciative about the world we live in! Too many people writing about the end of the world and blaming so and so for their ‘misery.'”
There are so many ways we can tell our story and connect with a world that craves good news. Just as the Farm Progress Show brings people together to see the future, let’s continue to come together like we did at the Modern Ag Experience Farm, encourage more rural-urban partnerships, focus on continuous improvement and share new stories that help people see a bright future for Iowa.
Darcy Dougherty-Maulsby (a.k.a) Yetter-girl grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and is proud to call Calhoun County home.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her online at www.darcymaulsby.com.