Farmers have often been portrayed as the bad guys when it comes to environmental protection. They are portrayed as not caring, causing untold damage to the environment. The first problem with this is that farmers are a very diverse population. Grouping all farmers into a single demographic is like saying all people with blue t-shirts have the same opinion on their favourite flavour of ice-cream. The second is that many of the farmers I have met care deeply about nature. That is one of the attractions to them having become farmers, they love the outdoors and working in nature.
To farmers I would say, agriculture needs to reclaim the term environmentalist. There are definitely a lot of farming practices which are harmful to the environment, and farmers do not fit the mould of stereotypical environmentalists. But that kind of speaks to my point, the environmentalists are playing a pivotal role in advocating for the environment, but farmers are the ones managing the majority of the environment. That is why I like the terms stewardship and custodian. Farmers are the true custodians of the land, and have a responsibility to steward it in an environmentally responsible manner. There are many farmers who are doing this, and I would call them environmentalists, along with any other person who is advocating for and implementing environmental conservation. The methods might be debated, but the aim is actually similar. I would rather focus on the shared aims, and then speak about the different methodologies. At least then we could all have common ground to base further discussions on.
To consumers I would encourage you to support farmers and initiatives which are implementing environmentally conscious practices. There are many farmers out there who are really attempting to reduce their environmental impacts and provide agricultural produce which supports a sustainable future. Don’t lump all farmers together, rather choosing to recognise that there is a wide spectrum of farmers when it comes to environmental stewardship.
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