The common link between tires and farming

Tires are one of those things that I think of about twice a year – in the fall when it’s time for the snow tires to go on, and again in the spring when it’s time for them to come off.

And when I need a new set of either one, I moan about the hassle and get annoyed at having to spend the money. In the back of my mind, I know that it’s not a smart idea to skimp on something so directly related to personal safety, yet I still hope to get away with spending as little as possible.

I don’t give any thought to how they’re made, what they’re made of, or what the latest tire science says – I just want them to do the job I’ve bought them for, which is get me safely from one spot to another without problems.

This past week I had the chance to learn a bit – ok, more than I ever thought I would – about tires by participating in a press tour of BKT Industries’ newest tire-making plant. BKT is a global leader in off-highway tire manufacturing, especially in agriculture, but also increasingly in sectors like construction and mining.

I was impressed by the amount of science and innovation that goes into new product development, the care and control that goes into making a quality product, and the way this company in particular has embraced corporate social responsibility by supporting its work force and the greater community with things like housing, education and health initiatives.

On the tour bus I got into conversation with a PR guy from the United States who works on behalf of BKT and his lament was one that struck a chord with me because it is one that I’m familiar with.

There’s so much that goes into producing a good tire that the average consumer has no idea about, he said. People should know how much effort is behind tires and they would care more if only they understood what went on in places like the factory we had just visited.

How many times have those of us in agriculture expressed those same thoughts?

Take out tire and insert food, take out factory and insert farm.

That exact sentiment is the basis for so many of the agricultural outreach efforts that happen daily on social and in traditional media, in classrooms, and in one-on-one interactions between farmers and consumers.

We get frustrated when people don’t know or don’t understand – because we know our subject matter so well and how important it is, we expect everybody else should too.

And although there are consumers who truly do want to know more about where their food comes from – or at least claim they do when they’re asked – the majority probably falls into that same category that I did when it comes to tires.

But just as I now have a new appreciation for how tires are made and the innovation and technology behind them, so too do most people when it comes to food and farming.

Once they’ve visited a farm, talked with a farmer at a fall fair, met a grower at a farmers’ market, or watched a virtual farm tour, they are much better equipped make  informed choices about what type of production system they’re comfortable supporting with their food dollars.

That’s why the consumer outreach efforts by organizations like Farm and Food Care, campaigns like Ag More than Ever, and individual farmer efforts on social media, like Andrew Campbell’s #farm365 initiative, are so important.

People don’t know what they don’t know and there’s no better place to get the real scoop than straight from the source. Just like I did with tires.

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