let's visit · Personal

What I Learned When I Met USFRA in St. Louis

st louisimage source because I always forget to take decent pictures

I’m writing this sitting outside of the Starbucks at gate E18 in the St. Louis airport. It’s 6:15 in the morning, I’ve been up for about two hours, and an espresso frap has never tasted so good!

I’ve spent the last few days in St. Louis with the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance in training to become a Sustainability Officer, and I think I might sleep for a week when I get home (okay, except not because Bert’s been flying solo and that would be a very unkind thing to do to him) because I don’t think I’ve had this level of sustained excitement and human interaction since our wedding!
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I’ll talk more about what I’ll be doing as a Sustainability Officer in a future post, but while it’s still fresh, I wanted to express a few things I’m taking away with me from these past few days.

  1. We are all connected. Farmers, ranchers, food companies, consumers, and on and on. Sometimes we can get stuck in our own little industries, or feel like what we produce is very different from what someone else is doing, but that’s not the case. We’re all connected, and we should behave as such. I naively (stupidly?) thought that there’s no way I could share much with a soy farmer or even a dairy farmer outside of the very basic things, but oh how wrong I was.
  2. Sustainability is really, really complicated. It involves not only the practices on the ground on the farm or ranch, but it’s also being incorporated into marketing and business plans, and is a key part in consumers’ perceptions of our products and businesses, and consumers have high expectations for all of us in this area.
  3. We need to do better sharing our stories, but more importantly, we need to do better sharing our stories effectively, and remembering that the way we share our stories and the kind of information we provide changes depending on our audience. I’m putting together (another) future post about some things that resonate with certain audiences and other things that don’t–I was really surprised about some of these.
  4. We can always do better.
  5. We all have a stake in this. Everyone’s opinion has value. If you are reading this post, you have a voice in this conversation!
  6. This conversation is not going to be over any time soon. I hear a lot of “Sustainability is just a buzzword. Why are we still talking about this?” And maybe it was a buzzword at one time, but now it’s becoming a (hard to define but very real) thing that is taken into consideration all the way from farm to fork (to landfill/compost heap/the toy bin in your kid’s room where they stash weird little trash treasures). If we ignore it, we’ll get left behind and someone else will take our place or be our voice and we know that’s no good.

So. If you’re reading this, I don’t care who you are or how you feel about agriculture. I want to hear what you have to say because it’s important. Comment with how you feel about sustainability, or what you want to add to the conversation. Ask a question, tell me what you’re doing on your farm or ranch, let me know what you think is important for me to know!

 

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