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Keep telling your story until someone listens!

Tom J. Bechman Brian Daggy and Curt Emanuel looking at soil samples
If you believe in soil health, 4-H or the role of the Extension Service, keep sharing your beliefs.

If you feel strongly about a cause but feel like you’re beating your head against the wall, maybe it’s time to move the wall. Find a new approach for sharing the same message. Whatever you do, don’t give up! Chances are good more people feel the same way you do.

We talk a lot about sharing the message of agriculture with urban consumers. What we’ve discovered is that there are many key issues in agriculture where people within ag have different ideas. It’s OK to share those ideas and champion a cause talking to other farmers and people in agriculture. Urban dwellers get really confused when people within agriculture come at them from different directions with opposing ideas.

The 4-H conversation. We’ve facilitated a conversation about the current state of the 4-H program in Indiana. What is frustrating is that while several people have shared opinions openly — including concerns about unwieldly computer registration processes, both for 4-H membership and for project enrollment — no one who could resolve the issue has responded.

Is the answer just shutting down and staying quiet? Hardly! Take this advice from Bob Nielsen, Purdue University’s longtime corn specialist who recently shared his thoughts on the value of the Extension Service in a special seminar for the Purdue Agronomy Department.

“Early in my career, after we started the Purdue Diagnostic Training Center, an article appeared in the local newspaper, ‘The Lafayette Journal and Courier,’ showing a young Extension specialist talking to a group of older farmers on a wagon tour,” he explains. “They looked bored to death and obviously weren’t listening.

“The specialist was me, and instead of deciding I was wasting my time, it inspired me because I realized that I was doing the right thing — sharing information about what we had learned. I decided I would keep sharing it wherever someone wanted me to share. It was the right thing to do.”

Keep sharing and keep talking!

Beating the drum for soil health. Recently, I attended a field day sponsored by the Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Boone County Extension Service. Brian Daggy and Curt Emanuel, respectively, represented their groups and shared information about findings on a 7-acre demonstration plot comparing no-till and cover crops to conventional farming.

The field day featured one of the most striking demonstrations of how changing practices can improve soil that I have ever seen, and I have seen a few! They displayed wide profiles of soil from a six-year no-till and cover crop plot vs. soil from the same field still in conventional farming. The difference was obvious and convincing.

The only problem was that there were only about 15 people in the room, including presenters and staff. “Why can’t we get more people out to see things like this? It was an excellent program and should make everyone think,” asked Bob Guernsey, a veteran no-tiller who farms with his son, Bruce.

That’s a good question, Bob. I don’t have the answer. But I know one thing. The answer is not giving up. Daggy and Emmanuel went forward with the program even though only a half-dozen farmers attended. Never give up. Instead, keep talking, keep sharing. If your cause is just, eventually someone will listen!

Comments? Email tom.bechman@farmprogress.com.

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