WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Sustainable & Conventional Ag Ultimately on Same Side

Apr 5, 2013

This week on emphasis Western Illinois University professors Joel Gruver and Bart Gill discuss how agriculture as a whole has done in reaching out to the public. 

Doctor Gruver specializes in sustainable agriculture while Doctor Gill expertise lies more in conventional ag practices.

Field of Corn
Credit Discovery.com

Gill said sometimes people seek out a great amount of information but become misinformed or "are well informed of sometimes the wrong information."

WIU Ag Professor Dr. Joel Gruver
WIU Ag professor Dr. Bart Gill

Gruver said that unlike in past generations, the general public doesn't have a human connection with farmers. Fewer people live on farms or directly know farmers. He says that farmers have become manufactures of food products in many people's minds.

That disconnect worried Gill as well. He said that public opinion is shaping attitudes toward agriculture policy so it's important that the public has accurate information.

Ag advocacy groups had Gruver equally worried. He cites certain ag advocacy websites listing  groups like the Sierra Club or pro-sustainable ag groups as "anti agriculture."

"A group that's promoting organic agriculture is not anti-agriculture," Gruver said.

Both Professors see defensiveness on all sides as a real problem.  Gill said that advocates of all farming systems need to reach out to those with other practices and be able to not be threatened by talk of change.

"I can see it in our students,  in some producers and some farmers. Automatically going on that defense to defend their current practice rather than wanting to listen to what others have been successful with," Gill said.

Gruver said that going forward people should engage in all community organizations not just agricultural ones. Saying that those with that kind of engagement will not only help agriculture be more sustainable but help society in general.