“The most important time for agriculture” – Potato news today

This article was written by John Mesko, Executive Director of the Potato Sustainability Alliance (PSA) and first published as a blog post on the PSA website here

I have been farming, talking to farmers, or supporting those who support farmers all my life. From growing on the farm to selling seeds and crop protection, to education, sustainability and independent farming, I have had the distinct privilege of being involved in virtually every aspect of the agricultural industry. There’s never been a better, more exciting time to be farming.

The topic of sustainability and all its relatives – regenerative, climate and resource positive – are currently the hottest focus in agriculture. These initiatives are growing in popularity and influence because of the legitimate promise that agricultural practices can change the world. ​​​​​​​Despite many years and incredible investments in education and incentives, climate-smart practices are not being adopted as quickly as climate experts say.

Everyone seems to want to know more about farmers’ practices and decisions. In the world of sustainable food and agriculture, the benefits of the system come from farmers making changes to improve sustainability on their farms. Everyone wants to be able to claim that they helped make it happen. Collectively we are forgetting an important element of this discussion – farmers are people too!

Understanding the agronomic, economic and production realities that the farmer faces is essential to support systems that provide improved sustainability. Farmers will not do something on their farm that will result in a loss of productivity or profit. The reality is that farmers make decisions based on other factors, including agronomy and economics.

We all, farmers or not, make choices based on more than just dollars and cents. For example, all cars get us from point A to point B, but not all of us buy the cheapest car. Cost is just one factor. We also include factors like brand reputation, features, color, etc. in our decision making network… Even smaller purchases require a more nuanced decision process. We may like a particular brand or style of clothing because we like the way we look and feel in it, and we may be willing to pay a little more for it.

If this is true of cars and clothes, how much more should it be true when we encourage farmers to change production practices that can affect the success of farm businesses? We need to do more than just make a decision in terms of cost, profit and yield. We need to better understand the big picture, the personal motives and factors that farmers consider when making changes to the way they farm. We need to stop telling farmers how to farm and better understand why they farm, their hopes and dreams for the future, and how they see themselves on the land.

The folks at Farm Journal’s “Trust Food” initiative. leading the way in integrated thinking about farmers. In addition to hard numbers to help farmers understand and recognize the value of implementing climate-smart farming practices, they explore the “human dimensions” of changes in farming practices. They strive to support farmers in all aspects of decision making. Understanding the full picture of what makes choice farmers is the first step to working with them, not talking to them.

We all know that agriculture is hard work and our global society depends on our ability to work together as industry, farmers, suppliers, food companies and consumers to create a sustainable future for our world. There has never been a better time to work in agriculture.

Source: Alliance for Sustainable Potato Development “The most important time for agriculture” – Potato news today

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