Home Ohio Country Journal Earth Day offers opportunity to showcase stewardship

Earth Day offers opportunity to showcase stewardship

On April 22, the broad Earth Day Network will recognize the concerns and the work of dedicated scientists by co-organizing the March for Science Rally and Teach-Ins on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“This year’s theme for Earth Day worldwide is climate and environmental science literacy, which is why the rally and teach-ins on the National Mall are particularly meaningful,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “It is fitting that once again this year, Earth Day serves as a vehicle for mobilizing concerned citizens — not only on April 22nd, but throughout the year.”

This Earth Day can actually be a great opportunity to not only support scientific literacy but also promote understanding of agriculture’s role in environmental stewardship. Terry Fleck, executive director of The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) said most consumers aren’t completely convinced farmers are doing enough to protect the environment, according to the latest CFI trust research.

“The land and its gifts are the lifeblood of agriculture no matter the size and scale, the crop grown or the livestock raised,” Fleck said. “But many of those on the outside looking in aren’t so sure.”

In the latest CFI trust research, respondents were asked to rate their level of agreement with the following statement: “Do U.S. farmers take good care of the environment?”

While 42% strongly agree, more than half — 51% — are ambivalent and only moderately agree. One factor behind this consumer view is that the “big is bad” bias is likely at play, Fleck said. In the latest research, 51% strongly believe that large farms are likely to put their interests ahead of consumer interests, compared to 36% for small farms. There is a perception that profit is the overriding motive on larger farms and that the use of pesticides and GMO seeds, for example, simply make farmers more money at the expense of the earth.

“As the size and scale of farming grows, consumers don’t trust that large farms have their best interests at heart,” he said. “I would also propose that the public has little to no idea what farmers are doing to protect our natural resources, so it’s difficult for them to form a strong opinion one way or another.”

To address this gap in awareness, Fleck encourages those in agriculture to engage with those who are not.

“Consistent, long-term engagement is critical,” Fleck said. “Having values-based conversations either in-person or online is what will make a meaningful difference. Our research tells us that connecting with consumers on what’s important to them — their values — is three-to-five times more important to earning trust than simply sharing facts and figures.”

It is also important that consumers see practices at work on farms to benefit the environment.

“Tackle topics like pesticides and GMO seeds, precision fertilizer application, tilling methods that prevent erosion, efficient water use and cover crops. Focus on continuous improvement and why it matters to you,” he said.

The steps you take on your farm for the environment may seem routine, but they are likely the opposite for people not familiar with agriculture.

Fleck suggests the following options for engaging include:

• Taking advantage of local public speaking opportunities.

• Pitching stories to the media about seasonal milestones on the farm (planting, harvest, etc.) and incorporating environmental sustainability messages.

• Posting pictures with great captions and short videos shot on your phone to social media (the simpler the video, the more authentic).

• Taking advantage of the new Facebook Live to give “on-the-spot” reports about what you’re doing on your farm to protect our natural resources.

• Engaging in those critical day-to-day conversations to better understand what’s important to your neighbors and community, and having meaningful dialogue.

• Sharing good values-based content from others on social channels.

Learn more about CFI’s latest research and the “Engage” values-based communication training program at www.foodintegrity.org.