Millennial leader Emily Buck has one recommendation for stakeholders across the food supply chain: Stop talking down to young people, and start including them in the conversation about regaining consumer trust.
Buck spoke on the Leadership Voices panel at the Trust In Food™ Symposium held Jan. 23 in Chicago. Previously, she served as a U.S. delegate to the 2017 Youth Ag-Summit, an event hosted in October in Brussels, Belgium, by Bayer, Fédération des Jeunes Agriculteurs and Groene Kring. That event convenes 100 leaders ages 18 to 25 from 49 countries for engaging conversations about how to alleviate global hunger.
Through her work in the communications field and her involvement in industry associations, Emily hopes to promote policies that will sustainably feed a growing global population. She agreed to answer follow-up questions from Symposium attendees.
Do you feel that millennials are talked down to, or talked about too much? Shouldn't we be talking with younger people?
They are talked about negatively very often. I would love to see millennials included in more conversations… which is a challenge because they usually aren’t at a point in their careers to merit inclusion in leadership discussions.
How did others at the Youth Ag-Summit define social justice?
Justice in terms of distribution of wealth and resources. For many, that means an obligation to feed people without the resources to access food. It also means an obligation to better manage natural resources by reducing pollution, using less inputs during farming, and reducing consumer waste.
If millennials are concerned with feeding the world, why do they seem to be against scientific advancements that help produce food more efficiently?
We live in a food-secure nation. Most millennials don’t understand that the food supply has a limit. The ag industry always talks so positively about our ability to feed the growing populations, so millennials don’t even recognize the possibility of a food shortage. If they are against science, it’s usually because they have conflicting information and want to err on the side of caution. The priority is to feed themselves and their family; they can worry about the rest of the world after that.
Do you think oftentimes the ag industry is preaching to the choir instead of going directly to the college campus and inviting them to Symposiums such as this?
The industry is definitely tight knit. I think food education should be worked into every aspect of life. We need to be teaching young kids where their food comes from; we need to teach teenagers how to cook food and eat nutritiously; and, we need to be having conversations with college-age students about careers and technological advancements so they understand the science. We know the average American is roughly four generations removed from the farm. If we work toward closing that gap, we will solve a lot of our image problems and consumer misunderstandings.
For millennials, who is the most credible voice? Peers? Scientists? Farmers? Google results? Bloggers with tons of followers?
Millennials associate food with health, and many see food as equal to medicine for maintaining health. This means scientists and health professionals are the most credible. Bloggers and farmers certainly have a critical role in sharing information, but information without established credibility just waters down our message. The important part is finding and empowering ag scientists who can make the information understandable for regular people.
How have young leaders been able to break down barriers advocating for agriculture outside of their own circles? Are we preaching to the choir too much?
Events like the Youth Ag-Summit bring together agriculture with the social justice/environmental crowd. They need to learn about production agriculture and we need to listen to their concerns and constantly improve our stewardship of the earth, so cross-industry events are really a win-win. Transparency is key in breaking down barriers, and that means the entire food and ag industry working together to be consistently transparent.