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Even the Comics Depict Agricultural Ignorance

I may be old-fashioned, but I still read the newspaper comics. Many of them often depict American life in a whimsical way by poking fun at today’s topical issues. And that usually brings a smile to my face.

One of my favorites is “Arlo and Janis” by Jimmy Johnson (southern-born) because I often associate with Arlo and his view of life and its circumstances and complexities. He portrays an average American male who tries to find the sense and sensibility of everyday life. And he is often perplexed by his surroundings and their meaning. He is especially perplexed and overwhelmed by today’s electronic technology and how to cope with it. His wife Janis often drags a reluctant and recalcitrant Arlo into the modern world of ever-changing technology and electronic gadgetry.

The ARLO AND JANIS JUNE 11 2018 strip veered from the usual subject matter by showing Arlo’s being perplexed by an agricultural issue. If you can’t access the strip, a frame-by-frame summary follows.

First frame: Arlo is shown saying “Soybean oil is in nearly all the processed food we eat”.

Second frame: Arlo is shown saying “Soybean meal is fed to livestock and poultry”.

Third frame: Arlo is shown saying “Soybeans are made into substitutes for milk and meat and yogurt”.

Fourth frame: Arlo is shown saying “And I couldn’t tell you what a soybean looks like”.

The fourth frame dialogue is the most poignant. I have accepted that it is likely that many of today’s urban citizens do not realize that milk comes from a cow (probably an overused analogy), but who would have thought that someone didn’t know what a soybean looks like? But then again, why should the majority of our citizens know that since they are ubanites and have never seen a soybean plant growing in the field?

In my opinion, the above strip is another example that shows the serious disconnect between agricultural producers and their clients and end-users. Many of agriculture’s customers have little or no knowledge of what is involved in growing or making the end product they purchase at the local supermarket. And why should they? They have access to the safest and most abundant food supply in the world and have no reason to question its source or what its components are.

Any grocery store you enter, regardless of its location in the US, has a variety of foodstuffs that is hard to comprehend by those without that access. And that is thanks to the unparalleled productivity and sustainability of America’s agricultural sector.

So is Arlo’s above expressed ignorance about what a soybean looks like a bad thing? I don’t have the answer, but it does suggest that there is a fairly high level of ignorance among food consumers about what is involved in producing and making the items they take from the grocery shelf. That is why we in the agriculture sector of the US economy must continue to promulgate our story in the most positive manner possible so that consumers are supportive of the efforts and resources needed to keep the bounty flowing.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, June 2018,