Writing on a timely topic in 2020 looks a little like the iconic image of a wastepaper basket with crumpled paper around it: a sign of trying to find words for something but starting over and over again. Maybe you’ve also felt this sort of paradox where there is much worthy of discussion but you face a loss of words to address all that has been going on in our state and country.
The transition into summer has seen undesirable, uncomfortable, and uneasy events. In Klamath Falls, another tough water year and disputes over allocations led to a 20-mile motorcade rally of farmers and supporters to draw attention to the issue. Around the same time, demonstrations erupted in cities and small towns alike following the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. Even in Oregon there were peaceful demonstrations in 35 of 36 counties in the first two weeks after Floyd’s death.
At first glance, these widespread demonstrations might seem unrelated to agriculture or forestry. Yet one of the most basic commonalities among these groups is the fact that everyone wants and needs to be heard. Every uprising in the history of the world stems from a group of people feeling unheard. From Timber Unity to Black Lives Matter, people are tired of lip service and the same ol’ way things have been done. In many cases, the frustration lies with the way problems have been reported by the news, or responded to by the government.
We may feel fragmented as a state right now, but the wisdom of our agricultural community can offer a way to work through these feelings of division.
Severe wind and hail storms hit Central Oregon, damaging crops and structures alike a few short months ago. Farms and ranches across the state know what it’s like to deal with inclement weather, but they also know that sometimes a storm may hit one property and leave another unscathed. Different areas of the state deal with fires, or floods, or an unexpected freeze while others see their best season in years.
We all weather literal and figurative storms at different times, in different manners, with different resources, all resulting in different outcomes. It is possible to feel fortunate if a storm has missed us, but also empathetic to our neighbors or fellow Oregonians having a tough year.
Now, how can we apply this to other struggles of our nation? Maybe it’s as simple as considering what storms are happening that haven’t affected us personally. We can dig past the headlines and look for the people and communities impacted by extreme events; we can do the hard work of listening or seeking out unheard voices in the midst of the chaos.
No one ever said Oregon agriculture was afraid of a little hard work.
Communication is a cornerstone of our work at Oregon Aglink and is a two-way street. Knowing our audience better invites opportunity for greater connections to be made and common ground to be found. A big part of helping someone understand what happens on a farm is understanding the people behind the scenes. Our connection will only get stronger when we’ve worked to listen to where they’re coming from, too.