When you read an article online, do you ever keep scrolling to read the comments? Often, when the subject is food or agriculture, the comment section is pretty active. And most of the comments are from very vocal anti-ag readers. For example, check out the comments on this recent article about the smell of hog farms in North Carolina.
Articles like this are the perfect opportunity for farmers to quickly step in and comment on an issue about which we are very knowledgeable. There were 28 comments on the article I linked to and not one of them was from a farmer. I would love to see a hog farmer respond to the article with information about the benefits of the lagoon-and-spray-field method, or changes that have been made in the past few years to decrease the ill effects of hog farms on the community. Maybe even a gentle reminder that nearly 97 percent of farms in the United States are family farms would be appropriate.
Sometimes, the author is so radical and set in their beliefs that they will not listen to your side of the story. But the moderate middle is likely reading the article and comments. Those readers will benefit from the information you give in your comment.
There are a few guidelines to remember when commenting (just like in face-to-face conversation.) Stay positive, credible, and real. For the example above, you could acknowledge that hog farms do produce an odor, but then list steps farmers take to minimize the smell as much as possible. Farmers need to build trust with the public, so no name-calling or mean-spirited arguing is allowed!
Whenever possible, don’t let misinformation or negative information go unanswered. Speak up to be heard!