I genuinely love my farmers and fishers. I don’t like the production practices of some, but I know overall how true the words are “No Farms, No Food” and strive through my writing and speaking to instill a respect for all food producers, regardless of individual opinions. It serves no one well to promote divisiveness.

I am definitely opinionated when engaging in some food and farming topics. Sometimes, I’m overwhelmingly passionate. Okay, I’m often overwhelming. Okay, most of the time. I do try to refrain from soapboxing, however, recognizing that there is a fine line between being passionate and being didactic. Based largely on your degree of agreeing with me, I also understand each is open to interpretation. That said, I pride myself on my depth and breadth of knowledge regarding food growing and access to food, particularly as it relates to building communities. I’ve earned respect from farmers locally and globally not only due to this knowledge, but also due to my willingness to listen, learn and respect them in return. I take a certain pride in the label of “food evangelist”, although to date I haven’t been door to door, passing out flyers. Instead, I opt for a combination of engaging conversation, speaking to large groups and writing. I do my best to live by example.

As an experienced farm defender I’ve gained knowledge working with related organizations, attending conferences, research, expanding my formal education. I find it’s important to gain information from a variety of sources. The most important source, however, is talking about all things food and farming with eaters and growers. As a community visionary, I share my understanding of the farmer and eater relationship and how this relates to sustainable people building sustainable communities.

Sandy River Farms Farmington, ME

Sandy River Farms Farmington, ME

The questions I field regarding food and farming are endless. Answers could be confusing and divisive. Many people get their information from social media or from videos and documentaries about farming and other food production which are based on fear. Chipotle is an example of a company which has capitalized on fear. They made a film showing animated versions of “caged” cows and chickens blowing up from injections of unknown substances. The main character is a scarecrow. We relate scarecrows to scaring off garden intruders. This scarecrow is used to scare off intruders of our general food production, especially relating to animals. I’m not a fan of food scare tactics to share the story of food. Farmers and eaters should be concerned about these tactics. Food is meant to be savored. That message is lost in fear mongering.

I advocate conversations. I started with family and friends and is most often the direction I hear taken by other food and farm advocates. You many not change the mind of someone dedicated to a particular issue, but you may plant a seed that will generate further interest. Listen to what the other person is saying, not simply hear what you think they are saying. Listen for tone. Ask questions. It’s easy to become emotional over the topic of food. In regard to food discussions, try to curb it. (I’m still working on that one.)

Exercise caution when engaging with food media stories. Pay attention to who is sharing the message and what may be their objective. Activists have missions. My mission overall is to instill gratitude and connect people with the food they need, while protecting farmers and their right to grow food, so I am more likely to share all sides of a food topic. That isn’t the norm. There is an entire industry of food and farming activists dedicated to convincing you what they say is the only way. Gain knowledge from a variety of sources. Based on accurate knowledge, make the decision that is best for you. Then tell your own story based on facts and experience. Remember, it’s okay to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”.

I find the best tactic to ensure everyone enjoys food is for food growers to be respectful of eaters and other food growers and for eaters to be respectful of food growers and other eaters. We are all in this growing and eating food thing together.