Anti-Pollan eager to speak
Rancher provides view to people who are far from the land
By CARL SAMPSON
Agriculture is engaged in a battle to fill a void.
The void is a lack of understanding about agriculture among many members of the public. Farming and ranching is so far removed from most people that they don't seem to know one end of a cow from the other.
Into that void walks folks like Michael Pollan, a best-selling author who has made a name for himself as an "expert" on farming and ranching. In his presentations, for which he is paid $20,000 to $45,000, he offers all sorts of ideas about how to "improve" agriculture and, consequently, the world.
He says he wants to get the public to think about food and where it comes from, which is a good thing. The problem is that, because the public knows so little about agriculture, they tend to take his opinions at face value.
He gave a presentation earlier this month at Washington State University. Last fall, he spoke at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. No doubt the audiences at those agricultural schools were able to assimilate Pollan's remarks along with what they already knew about agriculture and gain added perspective.
Other audiences that Pollan speaks to, like those at his appearance this week on the Oprah Winfrey Show, do not have an agricultural background. When he speaks, he is starting with a blank slate, or close to it. Whatever he says about growing genetically modified crops, using pesticides or anything else, the audience has no background to serve as a reality check.
Enter Bill Hoyt. He's the new president of the Oregon Cattlemen's Association. The Cottage Grove, Ore., rancher's goal is talking with as many people as he can about ranching and agriculture.
Call him the anti-Pollan.
He plans to speak to any and every civic group and club -- anyone who will let him talk about ranching and its successes and challenges. Read More
One of the things that we focus on in our presentations to producer groups is the importance of starting local in your efforts to promote and educate about agriculture. Many times people think that they need to get to the “big city folks” in order to have an impact. Nothing could be further from the truth. We take for granted that our friends and neighbors know about production agriculture but that’s probably not the case. Congratulations to Bill Hoyt for seeing this local need and filling that role. I know it’s not easy and it takes precious time from your day, but it’s important work. The things we do off the farm and ranch can and will have just as big of an impact on our ability to grow food as the things we do on the farm and ranch.