Farmers seeking to build on good image
Recent research shows that California farmers enjoy a favorable image among their non-farm neighbors. Now, they're intent on finding a way to improve it even more.
One way to do that, according to the research, is to let the non-farm segment of society hear more and see more of farmers on the land, at work, at play, at home and at the job of being good ol' boys.
The research comes after two years of meetings and study by leaders of agricultural cooperatives, trade associations, commodity groups and other farm organizations to explore and extend the image that farmers project. It is called the California Agricultural Communications Coalition.
At its third meeting in two years in February, the group heard the results of professional surveys taken among non-farm citizens. A major finding is that folks in the cities generally like and respect farmers and farming, but they bristle when farmers and farm work is wrapped in the term agribusiness.
It doesn't seem to matter whether they produce dairy products, tree fruits and nuts, vegetables, row crops or cattle — farmers are perceived as friendly, trustworthy, family-oriented, hardworking and not too well off. More often than not, they are thought of as operating family farms. So far, so good, and true.
Since the average California farm is slightly smaller than the national average, the family-farm perception is accurate and favorable.
City dwellers believe farmers spend long days at hard and sometimes dirty work, and that the compensation they receive is at the medium to low end of the scale. And farmers are seen sympathetically as being under confining regulations, some of which contribute to clean air and water shared with their city cousins and others.
With all that as a base, the communications experts are proposing to put more farmers, young and old, native and foreign-born, male and female in all forms and sizes out front where they can confirm the perceptions of them. The delivery system for doing that has yet to be suggested.
Getting it done probably won't be easy. True to the perceptions, farmers are busy people, not always available for photo shoots, tapings, meetings or opportunities to hang out with their non-farm friends. And many of them are not given to public appearances and exchanges. It will be a challenge to recruit them and to find platforms that they feel comfortable occupying.
To establish true farmers as the best symbol of themselves means bypassing several other notable aspects of California's dynamic agriculture. It is the nation's leading dairy state, produces far and away the most tree fruits and nuts, vegetables and specialty crops of all the states and many countries.
But mammoth production and enormous contribution to California's economy are not what endears farmers to their city cousins. The research shows that it is their lifestyle and their dedication to it that inspires wholesale confidence and support.
Putting those qualities on display without jeopardizing the basis for them promises to be a significant challenge. Farmers might have to grow into it.
CONTACT Don Curlee at firstname.lastname@example.org