More than just planting and harvesting: We need to understand what working in agriculture can mean

What does it mean to work in agriculture?

To most people, working in agriculture means farming or fishing, and then only specifically just the planting and harvesting part or just the fishing part. 

Folks who actually work in the agriculture industry know that this is not the case. 

For one thing, encompasses more than just planting and harvesting and fishing involves more than pushing boat out to sea. When you ask someone what they think aquaculture involves, the usual answer will only go as far as raising fish and harvesting it. Nothing about how the fingerlings get into the pond, nothing about making sure that the pond is the optimum environment for growing fish or seafood.

Aside from getting people to understand that  being a successful farmer or fisher or fishpond owner also means being a businessman, we must also remind people that agriculture work extends way beyond these fields. 

A common question I get as an agriculture editor is “do you farm,” oftentimes from industry insiders themselves. Most people think that only farmers are interested in, allowed to be interested in, and are allowed to participate in agriculture. The more we allow this erroneous way of thinking to pervade public perception, the more we should not be surprised when the industry continues to decline. 

We have to educate and remind the public that one does not have to be a farmer or fisher to work in agriculture. One can be a scientist, a journalist, an educator, or an entrepreneur. One can work in tech, in retail or wholesale, in food and hospitality, or in import export. One can be a lawmaker, a driver, a porter, a market vendor. 

The more we understand that the agriculture industry is wide and encompassing, the less pressure people will feel in supporting it, and the easier it will be for them to incorporate it into their daily lives.

Life is hard and it’s not getting any easier. Because of this, it’s only natural for many people to live in survival mode, caring only for themselves, not understanding or not caring  to understand how bigger processes affect them. Because of this, we have to tailor our message to make it simple to understand while being careful not to oversimplify the message, and to make it relatable to even someone who has never set foot outside the city.

A lot of problems in our agriculture industry are systemic, but a bulk of it comes from public misconceptions as well. While it’s extremely important to pressure lawmakers to correct the broken food system and push for transparency, this should be done side by side with education the public on why doing so is important and that whether they know it or not, this affects their daily lives. We need all the people who eat on our side, so it’s in everyone—the agriculture industry and the eating public’s—interest to correct widespread misinformation about the agriculture industry.

It’s unfortunate that everyone seems to have an opinion on agriculture, and that most of it is wrong. Only people who are actually involved in the industry have the power to correct this. Whether we like it or not, if you belong in the agriculture industry, you have to make educating others part of your repertoire.

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Yvette Tan
Yvette Tan is Agriculture magazine's managing editor’s web editor. She is an award-winning writer who likes to eat, travel, and listen to stories about the strange and supernatural. She is dedicated to encouraging people to push for sustainable food sources and is an advocate of food security, food sovereignty, and the preservation of community foodways.

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