Perception is reality. I have no idea who coined that famous phrase, but if I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard it said, or used it myself, I’d be a wealthy woman today. Our neighbors, Lashley and Joyce, have laughed with us over the years about how when we first moved to our place in mid-Missouri almost 13 years ago, many people “assumed” because we were not from there, we must be city folks. It made no difference to this wonderful couple that lives just up the creek from us where we came from, they were interested in getting to know what we are “made of.”
Lashley loves to tell the story about when the “hippies” moved to the area some 40 years ago. Joyce always admonishes him, “Now, Lashley, don’t call them that.” With a grin, he will say, “Well, when the free-thinkers moved to the area. . .” He tells us how good it was for the community to be exposed to a different culture. Some of the “hippies” lived in teepees, with no running water. They had milk goats and grew vegetables and hoped to share their vast knowledge of Mother Nature with the original inhabitants of the area. Much to the surprise of the “hippies,” many in this little agricultural community had been growing vegetables and milking cows for generations.
Lashley and Joyce became fast friends with one couple. Joyce laughs, “Kathy wanted to teach me to can vegetables. She didn’t realize that I had been canning vegetables forever. She came from the city, and living off the land was all new and exciting to her. For many of us, it was simply survival.”
Kathy and her husband, both lawyers, moved back to the big city, several states away, but continue to correspond with my neighbors. Open minds and open hearts can open doors. These people learned from one another, and continue to do so.
If we would open our minds and learn from our neighbors, and in turn, they from us, what a difference it would make! A simple conversation about what we grow in our gardens and prepare in our kitchens could lead to a conversation about the value of production agriculture and agribusiness to the social and economic well-being of this great nation. In turn, we could gain a clearer understanding of their wants, needs and the expectations of those who grow their food.
Perception is reality. Let’s position agriculture in the positive light it deserves, and open our minds and ears to the wants and needs of our neighbors and our customers. Even the hippies.
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