By: Beth Roden, Head of Global Communications, Crop Science, a division of Bayer

It’s been several months since I attended Dutch Roots, the 2018 World Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ). Taking place in the Netherlands, this year’s themes of smart farming, the urban delta and the circular economy showcased that innovation in farming is as much a tradition as wooden clogs are – it’s intrinsic to their way of life.

Though I’ve been to the Netherlands several times, I’ve never seen it quite like this, and I drew several of my own takeaways from the program:

  • The Netherlands is a global leader in sustainable agriculture
    Some of the brightest in the industry hail from this small country, including Louise Fresco, chairman of the board of Wageningen University & Research, a world leader in ag innovation. The keynote speakers reminded us all that big changes are coming to our industry and that we must be ready to embrace them and use the technology available to positively impact the environment and society.
  • Dutch farmers are resourceful, efficient and innovative
    There’s a reason the Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world: Farmers there are on the forefront of the sustainable ag movement, and, despite the hurdles many of them face, from drought to pests to government regulations, they have created an incredibly productive and efficient system.
  • Ag innovation in the Netherlands doesn’t stop at Wageningen
    I learn more about agriculture every time I visit Het Groene Hart (The Green Heart), a sustainable farming operation in the Netherlands that is part of the Bayer ForwardFarming network. From the wildflower strips to the wheat testing plots and bee yard, this farm demonstrates sustainability in action, using innovative technology to develop efficient and environmentally friendly processes, and it makes me excited for the future of agriculture.

However, what I find most inspiring about this event is you – the journalists who tell the story of modern sustainable agriculture every day. You play a key role in helping the industry meet and overcome challenges that affect us all, regardless of region: a growing population, climate change, resistant pests and diseases, increased regulatory scrutiny and a rise in consumer mistrust. Each day, you’re advocating for agriculture, for the people who have dedicated their lives to growing food for others and for the technology that makes it possible.

Today more than ever, consumers expect to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown. Our industry is striving to gain societal acceptance of modern ag, and we must think differently and bring forward new ideas to increase our food supply in a sustainable way.

Bayer is hoping to do its part through several initiatives, including our AgVocacy program, which uses trainings, social media and various events, encourage and enable these voices within agriculture; Farm Meets Table, our recently launched site that focuses on what consumers care about, using a voice and language they can relate to; and our Transparency Initiative, a site we launched a year ago that we hope will foster an open, science-based dialogue on our products by providing public access to our study data.

In the end, it will take all us of – from industry organizations to farmers to communicators – to reach consumers by holding open conversations and bridging the gap between the people who produce food and those who buy it in the store.

If you want to learn more about our commitment to facilitating an open dialogue about sustainable agriculture, follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’d love to hear from you! I also share a weekly news round-up, This Week in Ag, highlighting some of the innovations, people and organizations that make me so proud to be in this industry. Sign up if you’d like to hear about the latest each week!

I hope you all have a restful and happy holiday season and wish you all the best in 2019!