Sunday, August 26, 2012

Are you sustainable?

I was given an opportunity to be a part of AgriPOWER that is designed and managed by Ohio Farm Bureau under the direction of Sandy Kuhn. I can't say enough good things about Sandy, she does a remarkable job, she is awesome, she changes peoples lives, she loves farmers, and she has dedicated her life to Agriculture.  She invited me to sit in on social media/media/conversation training for two days.  I feel like I robbed her, since I have learned so much.  I have been through all of these training before and similar conferences, but with different presenters.  But, sometimes things just come together for you and boy did they for me.  I am going to share just one of things that came together for me at the two day event.

First I should thank everyone who participated in the conference and the 2012 - 2013 AgriPOWER family for adopting me for a couple days.

The first thing that came together for me was vocabulary. There is just so much vocabulary thrown around as it relates to Agriculture.  There are words and phrases the Ag. Folks use that have not been defined so that the general public understands.  Then there are media vocabulary words made for headlines that have no clear definition.  I have been asked a number of times if I believe Jake and I are sustainable in Agriculture, through our feed yard and our cow/calf operation. I usually avoid the question, because I have never heard or read a clear definition of sustainable.  

Finally Matt Sutton-Vermeulen showed this model called Triple Bottom Line that was developed by Freer Spreckley.  This diagram was explained that to be sustainable we have to be pleasing socially, take care of the environment and be making a profit doing it.  

We can have a healthy debate about if we are socially pleasing.  But, really for the first time the American farmer/rancher has enemies.  We have people like HSUS, which I am really sure does not want Jake and I to be operating a feed yard or owning cows.  They also have a significant following.  I feel that there are too many people upset with Agriculture at this time. I would say strike one!

The next conversation is about the planet and we can go on and on about what farmers/ranchers do for the planet.  We build wildlife habitats, spend billions protecting water sources, redesign equipment and machinery to protect our soil and use less fuel.  However we are still using our natural resources to produce crops and livestock. Socially people have a problem with many of our practices and we take blame for harming the environment.  I don't believe we are using the environment more than it's intended use.  However socially it is a strike two.

The profit side of things is interesting and I hope I will someday get to have a healthy conversation with agriculturalist of all types and non-agriculturalists about the profit side of the diagram.  With the drought, insurance and instability of the Farm Bill profit seems to be a gray area in many ways this year. It should also be noted the above animal rights organizations and environmentalist extremists do not want to hear farmers/ranchers are making a profit.  Strike three socially!

The bottom line for me is that with the rules constantly changing and society having so many unanswered questions I am going to say I am not sure we are sustainable.  There I said it.  Not the popular response I know, but it the honest response for the diagram above.  What are your thoughts on sustainable Agriculture? Are you sustainable?

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