Sometimes it is challenging to understand the perceptions of people within our world when it comes to producing food for them to eat. On March 4, Karen Cannon, UNL Assistant Professor of Agriculture and Environmental Science Communications, shared some insight that may help us in agriculture better understand public perceptions that revolve around food and raising livestock and why these perceptions may not be the same for those of us involved in agriculture.
Professor Cannon began by highlighting some of the challenges and changes within agriculture, science and communication. Currently, 1 percent of the United States’ population is involved in agriculture and there has been a change in available workforce from “farm raised kids” to migrant workers or urban farmers (USDA NASS, 2012). When it comes to science, agriculture and food production have seen exciting advancements in technology; however, this technology can also be unsettling and lead to increased public concern. We live in a “converged media environment”, or an environment where content and information flows across all media platforms making it available on your computer, smartphone, iPad, etc. This highly connected environment impacts the speed, accuracy and credibility of the information people are finding and sharing.
Among consumers there has been a change in knowledge and experience. Advancements in technology have removed people from farms because chores now require fewer people. This has led to increased expectations on safety and production practices when it comes to animal care or raising crops. Another phenomena is the “foodie” era in which more people are getting involved in urban farming or creating businesses that focus on the whole experience from pasture to plate.
Despite the many challenges, opportunities still exist to bridge the gap of differing perceptions about agriculture and food production. Some tips of how to do this include:
  • Realize “the public” is a myth, there is no one group or single way of thinking.
  • Address the division among agricultural sectors and communities (ag vs. natural resources; commodity groups) to work toward common goals.
  • Embrace the digital communication landscapes; develop a professional profile and participate.
  • Language can be a barrier so choose terms wisely and remember to LISTEN to other’s concerns and questions before “sharing your story”.
  • The goal is to engage audiences with differing viewpoints not “educate”, “advocate/agvocate” or “inform” them; they may already be very educated people.
To listen to this webinar, visit the Pick Your Project: Animal Care Resources website.
Animal Care Wednesday Webinars
For more information about Animal Care Wednesday Webinars, please contact Heidi Carroll.