Everyone in agriculture can affect how both conscious and unconscious perceptions of our industry are formed.
Perception can be defined as a way of understanding or interpreting something. It’s how we make sense of the world. Our perception is our reality. Perceptions turn into opinions, which then turn into action.
Perceptions are formed quickly and constantly. Some are consciously formed through experience, while others are unconscious mental shortcuts to help us deal with the volume of decisions we need to make all the time. Every day, we group people based on shared characteristics, including age, gender and occupation. But there is a drawback to this efficiency — it can lead to stereotyping or misperceptions. In the interest of speed, our brains will often use the first or loudest impressions to form perceptions. And it takes a lot of work to reroute those mental shortcuts to a different outcome.
This is certainly a challenge for all of us agriculture, as many of us often aren’t proactively speaking about our industry first, and rarely are we the loudest. As a result, many people form their opinions about our industry based on someone else’s story or what they hear first. But we can change that. We can stand up for our industry together. We can speak up with passion, honesty and conviction. We can be a part of the big food conversations, so our point of view is heard. We can shape people’s relationship with agriculture and the food they eat. And when we change the experience, we change conscious perceptions and create positive detours for the mental shortcuts.
It can be done. But it’s a big job that takes cooperation, passion, patience and respect for every voice in the conversation. We need to build lines of communication, not draw lines in the sand. Changing perceptions is a lot of work. It takes time and is often incremental. But every shift is important. We need to be relentless. We bring experience, knowledge and passion to the ag conversation. Our point of view is important. People want to hear it. So let’s make, and take, every opportunity to share it.
Remember, perceptions are formed from an instinctual need to understand the world around us. When it comes to agriculture, we need to work together to be the source of that understanding.