I’m a firm believer that consumers should follow Michael Pollan’s advice and shake the hand that feeds them. And at the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, I believe that food critics and ag producers of differing ideologies should come together, shake hands and talk to each other vs. about each other.
The Power of a Handshake
It’s easy and wonderful to shake hands with people we like. Those who generally see life the way we do, share our values and work toward the same goals.
But we also need to shake the hands of those who frustrate us, say bad things about us, do things we don’t agree with and refuse our friendship.
That is why handshakes are so powerful in the ag and foodie scene. GMO vs. Non-GMO. Grass-fed vs. grain-fed. Organic vs. conventional. It’s us vs. them landscape.
“The handshakes represent that they are breaching these divides and bringing these people together,” says Chaldean Mensah, a political science professor. “It signals that these adversaries are beginning to open up to a new era of cooperation.”
Finding Someone to Shake Hands with
Unfortunately, finding those unlike us may prove difficult. We become so insulated in our views and way of life that we fail to reach out to others and cultivate a community of diverse thought.
We need to remember that it’s not the literal act of shaking hands that’s the goal (although it’s important), but the breaching of divides and turning adversaries into friends.
Because at its heart, a handshake is a symbol. “Human beings are symbolic creatures [and] we trade in symbolic coinage,” explains Professor of Sociology Christopher Schneider.
In our digital age, we have a wonderful opportunity to learn about people outside our circles through social media. It’s important we grow in our knowledge of their views and lives by hearing directly from them (even if our positions don’t change). When we’re exposed to other ways of thinking and understand the experiences that contribute to those views, we can come together and work toward common goals. And that diversity fuels real solutions to real problems.
Meet Two Farmers
If you’re the GMO-hating, organic-only, Big Ag cynic, I want you to meet Scott Beck. Beck is vice-president of Beck’s Hybrids, America’s largest family-owned seed company based in Atlanta, Ind. Listen to his heart for the land and his family, belief in the doctrine of vocation and desire to serve humanity. In my experience, folks like Beck are the norm in “Big Ag.”
Maybe you’re the type who feels frustrated by consumers who criticize modern farming without actually doing any work. Why should they have a right to commentate on the morality of your practices when you’re the one producing their food and feeling the burden to feed a growing population? Meet Joel Salatin, a guy who doesn’t just talk about sustainability, but is actively trying to figure it out. You won’t agree with everything he says. But his boots are dirty, he’s acting on conviction and his work has integrity, especially in terms of how it aligns with his faith.
If you’re interested in visiting a farm (big, small and everything in between) to meet a farmer in real life, let me know. I’d love to serve as a resource to get you going in the right direction.
If you could talk to a farmer, what type would you want to visit with(dairy, organic vegetable, beef, etc.)? What questions would you want to ask him or her?