Bully. My initial introduction to that word occurred during the Medora, N.D., outdoor musical I attended annually as a child with my family.
The Theodore Roosevelt themed musical always depicts Teddy as a character with a “bully” spirit — not defined as a noun commonly used today to describe “a blustering, browbeating person” but rather as an adjective to mean “excellent” or “first-rate,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Roosevelt coined his platform as the 26th president as his “bully pulpit.”
I view agriculture’s own bully pulpit as a place of persuasion to share deep insights on the science of how food and fiber grows, ultimately feeding, clothing and fueling people. From the bully pulpit of agriculture for the past 25-plus years, we’ve been told to “trust science” as it advances farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to grow more food with fewer resources, thus extending the sustainability of their operations.
From increased milk production per dairy cow to the beef industry’s lighter carbon footprint to seed genetics that still produces grain in adverse conditions, the list continues as science advances agriculture’s ability to feed, clothe and fuel you, me and the rest of the world.
Every day, health organizations tout the bully pulpit message of “trust science.” As a long-time pro-science supporter in agriculture, I agree with that message. I made the incorrect assumption that most of my middle of America, rural and ag friends would be all-in when it comes to trusting science during a global health pandemic.
After all, we expect and advocate for non-ag audiences to trust science in food production. Trust farmers. Trust ranchers. I’ve been a part of numerous communications efforts to connect agriculture to consumers to establish that level of trust.
I’ve been met with hard resistance when it comes to trusting health professionals, even at a local level, from farmers, ranchers and rural folk. The conspiracy theories around COVID-19 grip many rural Americans right now.
It’s pretty simple. Wash your hands regularly. Socially distance. Mask up if you can’t keep your distance. Wash your masks daily. Repeat the next day.
Rural America cares for one another in ways the rest of the world doesn’t know or experience.
And we believe in the choice to do what’s right for our family, friends and neighbors. We live out the bully spirit every day in rural America.
We do not need or want a mask mandate. We do not live in fear during a global health pandemic. We live and practice common sense. We hold the bully spirit of our 26th president to show respect to one another.
Science and technology change health recommendations. I am not following COVID-19 recommendations from February of this year. I am following today's recommendations as best I can while still helping my family continue to independently work and live.
And modern farmers do not operate the same as our ancestors once did or even the way they did five years ago or last year. Science and technology change agriculture practices.
If you want to hole up in rural America, ignore science and technology and keep living your life solely for you and not care what is best for others, it's your freedom and choice. But for a majority of us in middle America, we think more of others than we do of ourselves and truly demonstrate a selfless demonstration of the bully spirit.
The food raised by farmers and ranchers isn't solely for your family and mine, or even our country, but for a global population. If all farmers and ranchers only raised food to sustain their own families, billions, yes billions, would starve in this world.
If you expect non-ag consumers to trust agriculture and how food is grown and raised, rural Americans including farmers, ranchers and agriculture stakeholders need to demonstrate through the example they trust science, all of it, not only the science that benefits fields, pastures, crops or animals.
Demonstrate your “excellent” or “first-rate” bully spirit when it comes to trusting science. Let’s get through and be better together on the other side of it.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.