Guest post by Michele Payn-Knoper
Sensationalism sells. Civility lacks sex appeal. Besides, do those ‘city folk’ even care about rural businesses? So why even make an effort to build bridges when contentious issues arise?
Simple. It’s called interdependence. Let’s look at bridging the gap from an agricultural viewpoint. People require food. Businesses depend on people for permission to operate. Building bridges means connecting those two worlds so that a civil conversation can take place, as outlined in my new book No More Food Fights! It’s a two-sided book, with 35 contributors that offer perspective from around the food plate.
Rather than pointing fingers and placing blame, it’s a smart practice for small town businesses to collaborate and build understanding about rural communities. For example, have you considered the contributions farms and ranches make to your community? Have you been on a variety of farms in the last couple of years and asked questions of farmers/rancher so that you understand their practices?
Insight on today’s food production and processing practices is critical to rural America. Once rural business owners are familiar with the agriculture in your community, you play a pivotal role in bridging the farm and non-farm worlds. Only 1.5% of our population is on a farm or ranch and much of the population is three or four generations removed from a farm. You are a link between those worlds!
Why should this matter? Imagine this. One of your customers comes into your business and questions the care of the beef cattle in a feedlot outside of town after seeing a animal rights video on the evening news. Do you know enough about what the farm is really doing to either offer perspective or have a strong enough relationship to call the farm to ask?
Let’s flip the coin to your business. Have you explained your practices and contributions to the farmers and ranchers in your community? That same customer who is susceptible to believe an animal rights video (from above) may also determine your business is harming the environment because of a report she read online. Have you built your community connection enough so that others know enough to defend you?
Misinformation and misunderstanding are trouble enough, but become mayhem when you have no community support. Resulting lawsuits, increased permitting and overregulation threaten your small business the same as they threaten farm or ranch business.
Collaboration can help overcome those obstacles. Rural businesses play a critical role in connecting people. I encourage people to focus on connecting “at the center of the plate to find common ground through thought leadership. Are you a leading the charge to help people find commonalities in your community?
Michele Payn-Knoper is small business owner in west central Indiana, where the view from her office includes Holsteins and her daughter playing in the fields. She works to connect the farm gate to the food plate as a Certified Speaking Professional. Michele wrote No More Food Fights!, the first book to address all sides of the food plate, which is available at http://causematters.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also find her on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook.
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