Growing up in rural Minnesota, I have been involved in agriculture my entire life. My family had a small family farm and even after it was sold, I managed to raise rabbits in our backyard for our own consumption. So, when I started high school, I joined the local chapter of the National FFA Organization, just as my four siblings had done before me.
For those of you who don’t know, the National FFA Organization is the premier agricultural-based leadership organization in the United States. With over 500,000 high school and college age members nationwide, it is easily the largest youth-run organization. It was started in 1928 by 33 young farmers as a way to provide leadership and agricultural experience to young agriculturalists. FFA members are easily identified by the blue corduroy jackets they wear.
As I became more involved in FFA, I noticed one particular theme. I noticed that organic and sustainable agriculture were somehow made out to be ‘evil’ and bad for agriculture. Through my involvement in the sustainable agriculture community, I came to question this attitude. Why is it ‘us against them’? Aren’t we all dedicated agriculturalists? Surely there are misperceptions among the agriculturalists I am surrounded by in the FFA.
But I also noticed this to be a two-way street. Somehow, conventional agriculture is seen as ‘evil’ by organic and sustainable agriculturalists. Coming from a conventional farm, this worried me considerably. 98% of all farms are family based, and I would venture a guess that 99.99% of these farm families feel just as dedicated to providing wholesome food and taking care of our earth as organic and sustainable agriculturalists.
I continually asked myself, ‘What is wrong with us?’ ‘Are we really so narrow minded that we can’t accept something different than our own methods?’ You could say it came down to the classic phrase popularized by the band War, ‘Why can’t we be friends?’
This post is not meant to criticize any sector of agriculture; we all have made mistakes. Simply, this is meant to spur some critical thought. To this day I maintain a simple attitude: there is no one right way to live. This means there’s no one right way to grow food, no one right way to feed a world. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can all work together: conventional, organic, and all kinds of sustainable agriculture. Together, we can accomplish amazing things.
So the next time someone brings up the discussion of conventional versus organic, don’t fall into the trap of argument, looking for one ‘right’ way. Instead, ask yourself, ‘How can we work together, despite our differences?’ Only through cooperation and acceptance can we survive.
Authors note: If you are interested in this idea or have any questions about what I have presented here, please, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Only through calm discussion can we make headway.