After my sustainability boot camp - it seems best described in that manner - I've had a week to digest what I learned, complete a second paper (that's another post), an exam and reflect on all of this.
I also had some great feedback on what sustainability means and how it fits in agriculture. It is truly remarkable how one word elicits so many different ideas. At least it's being talked about. I agree with @cropper01; the worst thing we, as farmers, can do is put our head in the sand.
There is much to be discussed, and sometimes, just this in itself can be difficult. There is no doubt it is a sensitive topic. In fact, most subjects are when it comes to sustainability. Stakeholders don't just have investment on the line, but they have their reputation and livelihood at stake also. When you stack agriculture up with the more publicized issues - climate change, global economics, and poverty- you can easily feel like agriculture is least concerning. Consider the interconnection though with all these issues and it's overwhelming how critical agriculture's cog in the system truly is.
Truly, every farmer impacts the solution in one way or another. The challenge is how to promote acceptance of responsibility when the issues are enormous and sensitivity is extreme. This is where I believe I've learned some things the past few weeks and have started looking at the world a little differently.
1) Always consider the source. Google alerts don't even warrant a look if the source is certain right-leaning websites. It used to cause me a lot of anxiety, but now I don't even bother to read what they have to say. It's just not worth the time. Likewise, I've become wildly aware of motivation behind the story, and this includes all parties, even those I once trusted blindly.
2) Question your norms. It will be uncomfortable and it may require you to read some studies and consider viewpoints you'd once dismissed (including some of those I mentioned above that I now ignore), but how does that saying go? Keep friends close and enemies closer? I found I wasn't so far apart, while others justified my opinion by giving me more confidence I understood the angles.
|Organic soybean field near Wyoming, ON. Taken July 12/13 by author.|
3) Define nobility. I always feel that slight tingle when someone comments on the nobility of farming. In all the constant change and innovation, the profession remains as necessary as it ever was, but we can not take this for granted, so I also believe in humility. Individually, I am replaceable and if I expect the consumer's nickel, then I must deserve it. That means being able to say with 100% confidence my decisions are in the best interest of my customer, my neighbour and my family.
4) Manage what you can control & pretend the
rest is in your backyard. Every manager I've ever had has said focus on what you
can control. Probably, because we're so easily distracted by what we can not.
How often do farmers talk about the weather? Prime example. Why then, is it so
easy to ignore the big issues? "That's not my problem" has no place
in agriculture. We make a lot of decisions and despite all we can not control,
what we decide to plant, spray, run across our fields and how we manage our
herd is entirely up to us. So, if the next crisis was in my farm yard, am I prepared to accept responsibility and face scrutiny for the decisions I made?
There are a lot of influencers in agriculture, but when the poop hits the fan,
it always comes down to a decision maker.
Last and most importantly,
5) GET RID OF THE EMOTION. Passion and emotion are not synonymous. Know the difference and how to separate them. Passionate discussions about agriculture are valuable.. emotional ones are not, unless it's about a fond memory.