Rethinking our responsibility: Storytelling and the Planet Forward SummitShare
If I’m honest, the bustling metropolis of Washington D.C. is not a place I once equated with effectively telling the story of sustainable agriculture. When I left the crowded airport to ride a crowded metro to find our hotel on a crowded city street, I thought to myself, “What does this have to do with agriculture?” No farms. No dirt. Definitely no cows. However, the Planet Forward Summit, hosted by The George Washington University on April 6-7, engaged me, my fellow Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders, and hundreds of other students, professionals, and storytellers in rethinking what it means to tell the story of sustainability–especially as it relates to agriculture.
In the heart of our nation’s capital, Planet Forward brought to life some of the most forward-thinking ideas and gathered people from around the world through the lens of artistic storytelling. Climate change, the central topic of the 2017 Summit, was presented–that such a complex issue requires–through diverse perspectives: Katie, a dairy farmer, Chris Policinski, Land O’Lakes CEO, Funmi, Nana, and Rachel, young African leaders, Tom Lovejoy, the ‘Godfather of Biodiversity,’ and Kate Brandt, sustainability lead at Google.
It wasn’t long before I began realizing the importance this discourse could have in my time as an Emerging Leader. The summit highlighted the various disciplines that play a role in addressing climate change issues, such as agriculture, technology, engineering, manufacturing, and politics, and how they also have the responsibility to communicate their work to the rest of the world.
Without bridging the information gap that exists between industries and individuals, the vital message we bear will go unrecognized. And the message for agriculture is that, as an industry, we have great story to tell: farmers are producing more, with less while preserving our natural resources. But in the age of information, we have to tell a story that rises above the noise. Creative storytelling will allow us to craft a message that is both relevant and relatable, timely and tangible.
As an Emerging Leader, I am constantly seeking new information, often about topics and issues I have no previous knowledge of. For me, the stories Land O'Lakes provides to both consumers and producers have been invaluable in my investigations. "The data-driven farm," was a piece written by Teddy Bekele, vice president of IT for WinField United, that showcased the importance of big data for farmers into a more comprehensible storyline. As someone unfamiliar with IT, stories like Teddy's are crucial for someone like me to understand the complex issues in agriculture.
As a Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader, I can’t help but think of how I will communicate agriculture’s sustainability story. It’s one I will formulate by learning from producers across the country and even across continents as our journey continues this summer. And thanks to the Planet Forward Summit, my perspective on telling this story has changed. Sustainability is not just about finding solutions to problems, but communicating what’s already being done to the world.
In the suburbs of California to the milking parlors of Pennsylvania and the city streets of D.C., the story of sustainability needs to be told. And for me, Plant Forward helped me write the first pages of my sustainability story. I am looking forward to the many chapters to come.