Al Gustin

A retired western North Dakota rancher told me he had been to the East Coast recently, visiting in-laws, and was appalled by how many of the people there had little or no understanding of production agriculture. His concern is shared by many in agriculture and it’s certainly not new.

That lack of understanding about production agriculture was the impetus for the creation of a National Farm-City Week observance in 1957. The proclamation signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, in part, “Whereas it is increasingly important that the public should understand the mutuality of interests of those who live on farms and those who live in cities.” Farm-City Week is celebrated the week leading up to Thanksgiving.

I was surprised to learn that 100 years ago, in the summer of 1924, a number of events were held in Morton County to promote good city-farm relations. Articles in the Mandan Daily Pioneer refer to one event in late June. It was a huge picnic held on the Joseph Renner farm west of St. Anthony. The event drew more than 500 people, including about 100 Mandan businessmen who were members of the Mandan Commercial Club.

Several years earlier, in September 1921, there had been a farm-city picnic at the Oak Coulee Ranch, which neighbored the Renner farm. Organizers hoped the event would “create a better understanding of the problems confronting both farmers and city residents.”

One wonders why it was felt, a century ago, special efforts needed to be made to improve relations between farmers and the businessmen and residents of nearby small towns.

Over the years, the disconnect has gotten greater. Like that retired rancher, many worry about an ignorance of things agricultural on the part of millions of Americans, the people they elect and those who teach their children. Where those people learn about agriculture, if they do, is critical. Today, unfiltered social media can be the source of much misinformation, but those social media platforms also provide an avenue for many agricultural advocates to help explain what we do and why we do it.

Al Gustin is a retired farm broadcaster, active rancher and a member of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.