For the week of Feb. 20, 2017

America’s most admired

By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau

Nobody likes us. Everyone’s out to get us. We can’t catch a break.

Farmers and ranchers still rank at the top of America’s most admired professions. This A-list is comprised of those who serve others, including firefighters, doctors, nurses, farmers and ranchers (who feed the world), police, teachers and engineers who build things.

And when the public thinks of agriculture – two words come to mind.

If you guessed “hard working” you’re right. That’s the ranking in a recent article in Forbes.

Across this country consumers believe farmers are important. When people take the time to think about their importance, most agree farmers feed everyone. They’ll tell you there isn’t anybody who doesn’t need farmers.

Other words used by consumers to describe farmers included necessary, good for society, honest, take care of the land, independent and good family values.

Americans also believe farmers are highly believable when speaking on farm-related issues. When asked if they would believe a farmer talking about the challenges of farming, nearly 90 percent said they would.

Farm wives were deemed even more believable than farmers. Depending on the topic, university researchers or scientists could be just as believable as farmers while environmentalists and government officials rated less favorably.

Most consumers will tell you they believe farmers and ranchers choose their occupation based on the satisfaction it gives them, not the money they make. They also believe when faced with a decision between economics and doing the right thing, most farmers and ranchers would do what is right.

Today’s American consumer also believes farmers have a high level of professional training and competency in agriculture. They also will tell you farmers care about food quality and safety. Nearly 80 percent of the public thought farmers and ranchers do an excellent job of taking care of their farm animals.

Believe it or not, depending on where you look or find information, two of every three people agree the use of land for agriculture is good for the environment. The public believes farmers take care of the land. Nearly half believe farmers and ranchers do an excellent or good job of taking care of the nation’s water.

Don’t listen to what the naysayers say. The public’s image of farmers and ranchers remains strong. Overall, the public appreciates the jobs farmers are doing and they like hearing from them. That means farmers should take every opportunity to speak up about their profession.

Stand up for agriculture. Say what’s on your mind and speak from the heart. American farmers and ranchers can help shape the message and mold the public image of their profession in their own likenesses, rather than having it molded for them by dictionary synonyms or advertising’s stereotypical overalls and pitchforks.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.