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I don’t have a green thumb

Kate James Editorial Intern for Progressive Cattle Published on 26 July 2021

“They’re not growing,” I said, frowning at my dad.

He squatted next to me in our garden and examined the tiny potato plants poking up from the earth. “They’re growing,” he confirmed. “You’ve just got to be patient.” His wink told me I did not possess this trait.

Now – 14 years later – I still don’t have a green thumb, but luckily I am interning in a state with no shortage of potatoes. While the gardening endeavors of my youth only yielded a harvest big enough to fill a few supper plates, the lesson in patience is one from which I continue to reap benefits.

I think of the frustration I felt in the weeks waiting for signs of progress. Investing time, effort and care into something – then playing the waiting game – was my first taste of the challenges many agriculturists face in our industry.

We are frugal and efficient with our time. We adapt with fluctuating markets, technology and weather. We make animal health our top priority and practice good stewardship to conserve the land on which we operate. On top of the many character traits these tasks demand, we are then asked to exercise patience when our efforts are incorrectly represented in the media or misunderstood by the population we clothe, feed and fuel.

Over 80% of Americans now live in urban areas, far removed from the family farm. Basic food production knowledge is decreasing, presenting yet another challenge for agriculturists to overcome. How do we build a stronger farm-to-fork connection? By doing what we do best.

  • Proper growing conditions – The right soil, the right climate and the right time. These basic requirements my dad taught me at 7 years old also apply to agricultural communications. Education is the foundation, and it is our responsibility to implement it in a learning environment during formative years.

  • Planting – Modern technology makes planting an interest in agriculture more accessible than ever; we just have to take advantage. Do you take pictures during harvest, calving, branding, hay cutting or vaccination? Are you making yourself available to answer consumers’ questions about where their food comes from? Have you considered inviting your local elementary school to bring a class out to tour your operation?

  • Patience – Ah, you thought harvest was next. Not quite. I remember my dad teaching me to give my crop everything it needed to grow, then make myself available during the process without poking and prodding. Plant the interest, provide the knowledge, answer the questions, then step back and watch the magic happen.

Consumer relationships are just like anything else we produce. Cultivating them requires focused time, intentional effort and a great deal of patient stewardship. Weeding out concern about how food is produced – and planting knowledge in its place – will lead to the support we need for the practices we use.

Try growing a connection between your operation and someone it provides for – you might have more of a green thumb than you think. end mark

Kate James is a Texas native and an incoming senior at Texas A&M University studying agricultural communications and journalism with a minor in agricultural economics.

Kate James
  • Kate James

  • Editorial Intern
  • Progressive Cattle
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