When we take the time to listen

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Taking the time to listen to someone who may not agree with you may not be easy, but it can be enlightening. (Rebecca Miller photo)

My phone rang late on a Friday afternoon. A man informed me he had canceled his subscription, because of our “liberal bias.” He pointed to our recent reporting about solar farming and an Associated Press article we published about California’s proposed move to ban gas vehicles, among other things.

The frustration was clear in his voice. He feels like his way of life, his beliefs, are under attack, and our paper was one of the last places he could turn. We had, apparently, abandoned him. In response, I said this: there are things impacting agriculture that crop up every day, it seems. We are not going to ignore issues, just because they are uncomfortable or different.

Take solar farming, for example. My family has dealt with oil and gas leasing for years now, I told him. In some ways, it has been good, but in other ways, it’s led to frustration and a feeling of powerlessness. Solar farming is cast as the next big thing. Maybe, it is. Maybe, it isn’t. But our goal is to get as much information out there as possible, in order for our region’s farmers or rural property owners to make informed decisions.

His story

The conversation continued. He has a story I’ve heard before; it is one that resonates with a lot of farmers these days. He is trying to make a go of it, on his family’s farm, in an industry that can seem like an uphill battle some days. He is like so many younger farmers, who, even if they have land access, have complicated family dynamics to muddy those waters. He is wondering if he’s going to push forward or walk away. Resources on responsible land management seem to be sparse where he is, as is good solid business advice tailored to farmers.

We wound through a number of topics — conventional farming, soil management, organic marketing, multi-species grazing — before wrapping up the conversation, which had stretched to almost an hour. Thanks, he said, adding that he’d “be keeping an eye” on what we did. I encouraged him to call and give feedback in the future, anytime.

Diving deeper

I don’t often get a chance to dive into long conversations with people who call with complaints about the paper. Considering the state of affairs these days in just about every area of life, it’s been a fascinating list. Most of the time, folks air their grievances and can’t get off the phone fast enough. I find it refreshing to have an opportunity to get to the root of things though.

I doubt this particular gentleman called back to renew his just canceled subscription. That wasn’t my goal. I think we produce an excellent news source, but I can’t force you to buy into it. But, in a way, it was a chance for him to air his concerns and discuss his farming issues with an unbiased outsider. I don’t know him. I don’t know his family. But I can relate. I hope, in some way, that conversation helped give him some clarity or even opened new avenues for him to consider.

It’s something I hope we all do: strive to listen to those around us, even those with whom we might not agree. You never know where it might lead. I can’t say I’m always great at it, but I do my best.

In recent weeks, we have also fielded questions about, you guessed it, where to sign up for solar leases, and various ins and outs of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected processing and mobile slaughter units. It’s spurred discussions about lots of issues and prompted questions that have the reporters digging deeper.

Just as I told this man, my goal is always going to be to serve our readers. It may not look exactly as some folks think it should, but that’s OK. We’re just a phone call away. Let us know what you think, anytime.

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Farm and Dairy Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Miller was tapped to lead the newsroom in 2019. A veteran journalist, dog wrangler and traveler, she lives on a 220-acre, 325-ewe commercial sheep farm in Lisbon, Ohio, which she runs in partnership with her mother. She can be reached at 330-817-6179 or editor@farmanddairy.com.

2 COMMENTS

  1. A cool editorial, Rebecca. Seems nowadays that a large number of folks don’t want to hear anything with which they disagree and they’re always quick to damn the messenger as well.

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