Friday, September 17, 2004
Those of us who believe that the sanctity of American agriculture is a cause worth fighting for could learn a lesson from the environmental movement and their ability to connect with people. Most of us can name numerous corporations and Hollywood celebrities that are quick to advance an environmental message yet unable to recall a notable company or celeb that promotes our U.S. food production and those who grow it.
Oh, Willie Nelson and a few others will do periodic farm aid concerts to show compassion; sadly, farm aide leaves the impression that the farmer is unable to help himself, not an apropos image for an industry that leads the world in quantity and quality of safe food production.
Is agriculture's inability to attract high profile advocates in direct relation to its investment into consumer relations? In comparison, environmentalists are masters at designing a message that creates passion and especially adept at targeting a segment of our population who crave it, our impressionable youth. Like the soft drink companies who determined that they could create lifelong customers by gaining a presence in our middle schools, environmentalists are keenly aware that fostering a relationship at the grade school level, nurturing it through the high school curriculum and igniting it at our universities ensures a lifetime commitment..
It can be argued that FFA and 4-H are agriculture's link to our young, yet these programs lack the magnetism and the financial clout to resonate with the suburban and urban masses. Meanwhile the United Nations has hit the bull's-eye with their campaign to reach more than six million of our most impressionable minds through scouting. The Boy Scouts have partnered with the United Nations Environment Program and it is rumored that their newest merit badge will sport the U.N. Label. This falls perfectly under the U.N.'s long term agenda as laid out in the 2002 UNEP Governing Council's report, that called for the creation of a global movement for children and youth to actively participate in environmental activities with "the vision to foster a generation of environmentally conscious citizens who will better influence the decision-making process and act responsibly to create a sustainable world."
The Environmental Media Association is another group dedicated to appealing to generation Y and Xers and is receiving the backing to do it in a big way. Through their generation "E" (Environment) campaign, they adeptly use television and film to influence millions with their environmental messages while promoting the fact that they have a "profound effect on how the public receives environmental information".
When EMA recently partnered with Eddie Bauer it enabled them to run a four-page ad in Vanity Fair and Vogue featuring celebrities who "think green," promoting a 100 percent organic cotton t-shirt that purportedly improves soil quality and promotes healthy ecosystems simply by its purchase (an added benefit to appearing stylish while saving the earth.) It is a great campaign.... but it is one that agriculture should be running; educating the public about the new technology used in precision farming that "tangibly" improves soil quality, while creating (not merely promoting) healthy ecosystems by using less pesticide to produce more crops on even less land.
It is time that corporations step up to underwrite the message that American Agriculture is beyond"thinking green." A green revolution is occurring in 21st Century American Agriculture, and those of us who care need to unite in an effort to GROW a generation of "AGtivists."
Susan Allen provides this message for the Food Fore Thought Foundation.