Isn’t it crazy that the more things change, the more they stay the same?
The issues that were hot topics during the 1999 WTO riots – dubbed the “Battle of Seattle – are still very much the same issues we, as farmers, are working to overcome over two decades later.
There continues to be a great misunderstanding by the public, special interest groups and, in some cases, governments about the work of farmers – why we use certain products, why we need technology and genetically modified plants, why access to international markets is so vital and how sustainable most farms already are.
“People don’t understand the how, the why and the what of agriculture and how it impacts their daily lives. They are separated from those realities when we are busy raising families and taking care of our own lives and many of them are not closely associated with agriculture. So the need to share those stories, and be available to answer those questions has probably never been more clear.”
Mary Boote, CEO of the Global Farmer Network
I bring this up because the Battle of Seattle was the impetus for the creation of what has become the Global Farmer Network, a global organization that connects farmers of different genders, farm sizes, types, and locations around the world. The goal is to amplify the voices of farmers and their stories and unite with one common goal – to increase the volume and impact of farmers’ opinions and concerns.
“Take it to the farmer,” were the dying words of Dr. Norman Borlaug, a Minnesota scientist and plant breeder, who became known as the father of the Green Revolution and later received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in combating world hunger and creating a series of global crop improvement centers.
Dr. Borlaug knew that for science to be effective, it needed to go from the lab and into the farmers’ hands, having them involved in conversations at a grassroots level. In that spirit, the GFN brings farmers together several times a year for Round Table discussions on a wide variety of issues. From sustainability, innovation and food security to trade agreements and crop protection, these pressing issues are still top of mind for farmers around the world.
I’m a proud member of the GFN along with 248 other farmers from 64 different countries and 6 continents. We speak different languages and have different cultures, but the one thing we have in common is that we are all actively engaged in agriculture production and want to learn from one another.
Not just anyone can be a member of the GFN – you must be nominated by another farmer who believes you exemplify the values and understand the mission of the group. Those values include:
- Being open and curious
- Not having a pre-conceived agenda
- Being respectful of other’s points of view
- Willing to listen and answer questions
- Ability to have balanced conversations
I was nominated a few years ago and had the privilege of attending the Global Farmer Network Roundtable and Communication Training Program held in Brussels in 2021.
It was eye-opening and it pushed me to further my story-telling abilities through blogs and social media. As Mary Boote says, you can’t move the dialogue forward from a defensive position. We need to be offensive and proactive in our ability to have conversations with one another, members of the public, NGOs and governments.
One of the newest ways the GFN is connecting farmers is through their podcast which just launched. Add this one to your favorites list:
The next GFN Roundtable and Communication Training program takes place in Washington, DC on September 10-16th, 2023.
The program features a facilitated dialogue among global farmers to better understand and address the challenges of filling an increasing food and nutritional security gap. The farmers are trained with purpose – challenged to discover the power of their unique viewpoint, refine their skills to communicate their story with impact and gain a platform to expand their circle of influence in the global food challenge debate. I highly recommend it!
Consider nominating a farmer who you think would become a valuable member of the Global Farmer Network. Together, we can keep moving agriculture forward for the benefit of our children, grandchildren and future generations.