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Frank Mitloehner blog

Three reasons to prioritize communication in the food system.

Posted July 22, 2022 by Dr. Frank Mitloehner, Professor and Director of CLEAR at UC Davis

Those who work in the agriculture industry know that everyone involved in the food system cares. We care for the environment, we care for our animals and our land, and we care about producing safe food for everyone around the globe. But what happens if we don’t take the time to communicate the truth about agriculture and food production? We don’t earn the trust of our audiences and someone else takes control of the narrative. Here are three reasons why we should prioritize communication in the food system.

1. People want information.

There is a real hunger for information out there, but many people do not have a great understanding of the food system. This makes communicating our research in ways the public understands a bigger task than many might think and it’s paramount that we understand the importance of clearly communicating facts, not opinions.

Our ability to communicate also needs to extend beyond our circle. We should be comfortable having conversations with those who aren’t colleagues or involved in the industry. If we can’t communicate with the public at large, our work loses a great deal of significance.  That’s why at UC Davis, doctoral students in the Department of Animal Science don’t just get a PhD; they undergo extensive training in communications.

2. We have the tools.

There are many ways to tell a story and share information. One tool we have is social media. Social media may seem like a yelling competition at times or a breeding ground for misinformation but when utilized, the agriculture industry can use it to amplify our voices and reach new audiences. It can provide unparalleled reach that other mediums can’t provide.

When you post on social media, you’re not just reaching the agriculture community. You’re reaching journalists and politicians who influence public opinion and policy. You’re reaching teenagers and young adults who grow up to be the decision makers of households. Most importantly, you’re positioning yourself as a thought leader and a champion of truth and transparency in agriculture.

3. If we don’t tell our story, someone else will.

Communication is especially important when it comes to sustainability. Sustainability should not be politically charged. We all want to be the best stewards we can be and at the end of the day that’s all sustainability really is. Farmers are often depicted as greedy people who don’t care about the work we do and the impact we have on our planet and our people. We need to show them that we are compassionate, and that compassion is where our stewardship stems from.

When we don’t take the time to communicate or we make assumptions that people don’t care to know the truth, we let someone else write the story. And often, that story is riddled with half-truths and unflattering depictions of who we are and what our industry stands for.

The bottom line.

It’s time for the agriculture industry to own the conversation and understand that trust must be earned. Whether it’s sustainability, animal welfare or anything in between, we should be proud of what we do and not shy away from discussing hot topics.

To learn more about communicating sustainability in agriculture, tune into Dr. Mitloehner’s recent episode of Food Chain Chats.


About Dr. Mitloehner

Dr. Frank Mitloehner is a professor and air quality specialist in cooperative extension in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis and the director of the Clarity and Leadership for Environmental Awareness and Research (CLEAR) Center. Dr. Mitloehner received a Master of Science degree in animal science and agricultural engineering from the University of Leipzig, Germany, and a doctoral degree in animal science from Texas Tech University.



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