Recently, I’ve been engaging in a lot of Twitter discussions and sharing some blog posts about attitudes in agriculture, the future of farming, and overcoming the divisions that seem to exist between organic and conventional farmers. I could go into a long discussion here about the causes of this problem, apportioning blame to farmers and special interest groups (for lack of a better term) on both “sides” but I’m more interested in exploring ideas about how to bridge the gap.
To me, the benefits are obvious: farmers of all stripes are experimenting with new tools and new management techniques, applying newly-gained knowledge, and fine-tuning and improving their farming practices to achieve a common set of goals (better yields, higher crop quality, enhanced animal welfare, better financial returns, etc.) and while everything may not be 100% applicable to all production methods, there is surely a lot to be gained by sharing knowledge and experience.
In too many instances, however, the agricultural community is divided into “two solitudes.” This is particularly evident during the upcoming season of conferences, workshops, meetings, and farm shows. Despite the growing market opportunities in organic food and the best intention of conference organizers to increase organic production (not to mention potentially useful presentations), it’s unusual to see conventional farmers at “organic” conferences. And unless it’s a machinery show, organic farmers don’t tend to show up at “conventional” events. But these events are where farmers generally go to learn new things.
So how do we bridge the gap? How do we make agricultural events more welcoming to all types of farmers and provide opportunities for farmers to share experience and knowledge gained from a range of production methods? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!