Farmer talking to a researcher inside a utility vehicle

When I started in my role with SOILS AT GUELPH, someone gave me Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. Sinek’s whole thesis is that “people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” And it’s a shared sense of WHY that inspires movements.

I’ve been reflecting on this idea over the past few months. WHY am I doing this work? WHY am I mobilizing soil research; building bridges between researchers, farmers, industry, government, and the public?

I think I’ve known my WHY for a while: I want to help different people understand each other a little better.

I believe every person involved in agriculture is an expert in something, and we have so much insight to offer each other. We know this intuitively: if we had nothing relevant to offer to each other, we wouldn’t care whether we were listened to or understood.

But we do care. We know that misunderstanding and confusion frustrate our efforts to work together, and when that happens everyone loses: farmers, researchers, crop advisors, extension specialists, the whole Ontario ag industry, the land.

I’ve heard a couple people recently quote the famous line from George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

But the way I’ve heard this quote used is to support the mantra of talking louder and longer to get your message out.

Don’t hear me wrong: there’s merit to repeating a consistent message. But communication can’t just be about talking, talking, talking.

We have to listen.

True communication is dynamic, multi-directional, active, and engaging. It’s about stepping across the room, into an unfamiliar sphere. Knowing and being known by those who are different than you are. It’s the “strength of weak ties” that unlocks innovative solutions that we didn’t know were possible.

We’ve got a climate crisis on our hands. We have soils that are being eroded or paved over entirely. Supply chains are out of whack. We will not successfully address these challenges by tackling them on our own, in our safe and familiar silos. We need the diversity of skills, expertise, experience, and perspective to lead us into a brighter future.

We need to work to understand each other a little better.

Soil For Life logo

That’s why we’re proud to be partnering with farmers, farm organizations, advisors, and government under the banner of #SoilForLife. It’s an effort to bring us out of our silos behind a positive vision for soil and soil care in Ontario. It’s a step across the room.

We’d love if you joined us.

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