Agricultural advocacy as told by an urban farmgirl

DIANA LI / AGGIE

Agriculture demands more attention for its significant impact on daily life

With the rise of a rather health-conscious generation comes debate and scandal around GMOs, factory farms, food-borne illnesses, companies like Monsanto and the institutions and policies that produce and regulate agriculture. But excepting extreme cases, agriculture tends not to be a topic of mass public opinion, though its effects can be quite newsworthy.

Unfortunately, stories about recalled chicken and sick individuals tend to be the only representations of agriculture in mainstream media. By advocating for agriculture and discussing its benefits more in-depth, I believe more people will become interested in agricultural issues.

My association with the Future Farmers of America in my hometown of Houston, Texas sparked my interest in agricultural advocacy. I raised cattle, became a local and district-level officer and dedicated myself to being an advocate for the future of agriculture. The unity and diversity of the organization and its teachings are amazing, bridging contemporary life and traditional means of sustenance no longer widely practiced in this country. The exposure I had to urban and rural aspects of farming will stay with me for life and I will undoubtedly apply the skills I learned in this column. I was opened to new perspectives of American life and the importance of innovations to feed, clothe and shelter humanity. There is no limit to what can be done in the field if there were more agricultural advocacy, not only done by organized national and state representatives in policy, but also by each individual who benefits from agriculture — meaning the everyday citizen and not just the urban farm girl who proclaims herself a mild agricultural advocacy enthusiast.

In high school, I had many ideas as far as advocating for agriculture, mainly through the promotion of education presented in increments. I would have loved to have worked with the Texas Farm Bureau and their Mobile Ag Barn. Many young adults also love learning about how to help others in need, how to be healthy and how to care for the planet. This is why I took interest in getting involved, and involving others in volunteer programs to aid Kids Against Hunger, Urban Harvest, local parks and arboretums and many more worthy causes in order to promote sustainable living and to provide sustenance to those sorely in need.

Those causes I wanted to support back home in Houston have their counterparts in Davis, Sacramento and Woodland. Organizations here could benefit from increased exposure to and appreciation by their respective communities. More people would be helped as a result. Agriculture and the way it is advocated for have a symbiotic relationship and mutual benefits for the betterment of the societies we are working on making more sustainable. Knowing what to stand for and how to get involved are the first steps towards accomplishing such a feat.

I look forward to helping provide information about the local agricultural scene for this purpose. I hope to instill curiosity as to how The Pantry runs, where sources of fun and educational ag-centered programs are located and what experts and student specialists are talking about. For me, following the latest happenings is like tuning into a Netflix series one cannot help but get hooked on. But even if you are not directly interested in agricultural advocacy, it still has an inherently quotidian quality that makes it vital to every person who cherishes food in variety, housing, clothing, a ritual morning cup of coffee and anything else produced by agriculture.

Life as we know it would not be possible without the innovations and legislation affecting agriculture, which is why holding it in conversation is a vital portion of advocacy. You may not think you have an opinion on agriculture, but every time you think about saving the bees or how to improve the nutritional standards of your diet, you are doing just that. What I hope to accomplish this quarter is to raise consciousness in as many people as I can reach through this column about the need to be involved in agricultural advocacy.
Written by: Camille Chargois — cachargois@ucdavis.edu

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