Facts interest me. When someone pipes up with a “Did you know?” I always perk to attention. Facts should be uncontroversial and straightforward. An 8-ounce steak has 45 to 50 grams of protein and 10 to 16 grams of fat. A potato has 110 calories and 1.8 to 2.1 grams of fiber. These facts are concrete, indisputable and largely irrelevant. That’s the trouble with facts: The more certain a fact, the less understandable it is.

Freelance Writer
Gus Brackett lives and works on his family ranch in Three Creek, Idaho, where they raise cattle, ...

It would be easier to say that steak and potatoes are healthy, but in today’s crazy world, try to convince someone that meat and potatoes are healthy! When you put a fact into layman’s terms, it becomes so nebulous as to be unconvincing.

So how can a fact be both useful and understandable?

I have a daughter who competes in interviews. She has competed in the FFA Job Interview contest and a multitude of queen contests with a personal interview component. I have never competed in such a contest. Come to think of it, I’ve never participated in a job interview. I have very little advice to offer. My advice is to speak confidently, even if you’re not sure you have the facts straight.

In one of her contests, a judge asked her a question, and she gave the wrong answer. However, she answered so confidently that only one judge marked her answer wrong … the one who asked the question. That is how facts can be sometimes. It’s less about the facts and more about responding confidently.


Youth are so certain with their facts. My kids express this all the time. They will spout a fact that I know is provably false, but they say it with such conviction I question my own memory. Maybe early-onset dementia is catching up with me. And then I remember myself as a young adult and all of the “facts,” true or not, that I would state with similar certitude. Oh, the ignorance of youth … just the same, there are millions of ignorant youth that confidently express “facts” about agriculture with the zeal of the town drunk explaining the health benefits of alcohol. Let’s take a look at some of these “facts.”

1. Modern agriculture is a major contributor of climate change. Most of the time, this claim about farming is expressed without any context and without the question of, “What is the benefit from the cost of spewing billions of tons of greenhouse gases (cow farts) into the atmosphere?”

Farming is all about carbon capture. Farmers and ranchers input nutrients and water into a system. Through the miracle of biology, our plants and animals synthesize carbon from the air into nutritious and readily available food and fiber. We, of all industries, have the possibility of net zero with carbon.

I find it hilarious when technology companies such as Meta and Google brag about their “carbon neutral” business model. They make pictures dance on a screen, so big deal that they are carbon neutral … they should be.

On the other hand, agriculture feeds the world. Perhaps that requires some release of greenhouse gases, but my full belly appreciates that trade-off.

2. Modern agriculture is not sustainable. This fact is simply a falsehood heavily spiced with ignorance. First, there is no such thing as “modern agriculture.” Agriculture has always evolved and progressed with the culture. The commercial growing of food dates back thousands of years when surpluses were shipped up and down the Nile River in Egypt. Today’s food system is more complicated but, fundamentally, growing plants and animals for food is the same.

Sustainability is also a strange word. It is tossed around in the context of biology or ecology, but ecological systems have a way of balancing despite our efforts to make the system conform. Humans will adapt and guide, but we will never completely control ecological systems. Sustainability in agriculture has everything to do with profitability. With profit, the long-term viability of an operation will be assured. Regardless of your view of sustainability, without profit, someone else will try their hand at operating your farm profitably.

The further challenge with sustainability can be seen right here in Idaho. Agriculturists are asked to do more with less. Between 2001 and 2016, Idaho lost 68,823 acres of agricultural land to development. In that same time, the population of Idaho grew by 364,074 persons … and this phenomenon is not unique to Idaho. Modern agriculturists use every technique imaginable to grow more food with less land. Regardless of how you define sustainability, today’s farmer must produce more per acre or the new buzzwords in academia will be food rationing and famine instead of sustainability. The real question: “Is today’s modern food system sustainable?”

We in agriculture know the facts about farming and ranching. It is about time we share these facts with the general public. We must express the facts about agriculture with more confidence and enthusiasm than the people spreading the myths. And our certitude is based on expertise instead of ignorance … and that’s a fact.