ACDC News – Issue 07-02

New series about covering threats and crises related to food and agriculture.

Last month the Center staff completed a four-part series on this subject.  We did so through generous support from the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists.  You can read these four professional development features by using the live links below.  The features are part of an IFAJ/ACDC partnership that began during early 2006.

Views about the “deskilling” of consumers. 

In earlier issues of ACDC News we have called attention to debates about the progressive “deskilling” of farmers.  Similarly, we are actively monitoring reports and views about what is sometimes described as “consumer deskilling” in the food system.  Both topics involve agriculture-related information, and the sharing and use of it. They hold interest for agricultural journalists and communicators.  Here we feature two perspectives reflected in recent literature:

 I. Is loss of practical cooking skills a tragedy? Not necessarily.

Authors of an article in Food Service Technology examined what happened to food preparation skills in the United Kingdom during a 20th Century marked by massive social and technological changes. They concluded that loss of such skills, while regrettable, is not tragic.  “All is not lost,” they said, “if there remains an interest in the meal as an event, and its preparation is a creative process.”  They found hope in the interest created by an abundance of television cookery programs, celebrity chefs and a steady flow of meal recipes and food-related reports published in magazines and newspapers.

Title:  Deskilling the domestic kitchen
Posted on the open web at:

II. Watch out for consequences and threats.

“Consumer deskilling in its various dimensions carries enormous consequences for the restructuring of agro-food systems and for consumer sovereignty, diets and health.” So argued JoAnn Jaffe and Michael Gertler in their 2006 article published in Agriculture and Human Values.  They pointed with concern to threats such as:

  • Loss of family health and longevity, disease risk, hunger (in some settings) and low value for money
  • Concentration of power and control in the food chain
  • Arrested development, local and international
  • Loss of connection to the land and key components of the culture
  • Undermined family life

The authors observed that the “agro-food industry has waged a double disinformation campaign to manipulate and re-educate consumers while appearing to respond to consumer demand.”  They found hope in the varied forms and sources of resistance, including health food cooperatives, organic agriculture, food security, urban gardening, anti-hunger initiatives, wildlife conservation and other social movements.

Title:  Victual vicissitudes

How bioscience firms are addressing ethical decision-making.

A 2006 article in PLoS Medicine journal reported results of a two-year study that involved interviews with more than 100 managers and executives of 13 bioscience companies. These companies were approached because they were known to have used mechanisms for ethical decision making.  Here are five approaches identified. All require effective communicating:

  • Ethical leadership – via ethics departments and leader emphasis on ethics
  • External expertise – via consultants or advisory boards
  • Internal mechanisms – via hiring practices focused on ethics, employee performance evaluations, ethics education, forums for discussion and ethical reinforcement techniques
  • External engagement – via ethics-related agreements with suppliers/partners, transparency with stakeholders, transparency of science, strategic philanthropy and efforts to influence industry standards and regulations
  • Ethics evaluation and reporting mechanisms

Title:  Lessons on ethical decision making from the bioscience industry
Posted at:

Driving a TeleTractor.

A recent article in Technology in Society described use of wireless information technology for agricultural producers on the move.  This TeleTractor project, supported by the UK government and described briefly in the article, is designed to “create offices in tractor cabs.”  The goal is to improve business activity by providing data and information to producers in the field.

Title:  Diffusing wireless applications in a mobile world

“We will carry the agricultural school to the farmer.” 

With that stated goal James Wilson, U. S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, announced plans nearly 95 years ago to develop what soon became a nationwide Cooperative Extension Service.  A 1912 Chicago Tribune newspaper article we added recently explained that the new program would provide farm management study to farmers in the North.  The planned program used a “co-operative demonstration” approach already introduced with promise in the South.

Title:  Teach farmers at home

Communicator activities approaching

March 12-13, 2007
“Out of ideas for writing, photography and layout/design?” Midwest Regional Workshop of the Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) in Louisville, Kentucky USA.
Information:  Tammy Simmons at or 800-357-5232

March 29-31, 2007
Winter meeting of the Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) in Corpus Christi, Texas.

April 11-13, 2007
“Think big.”  2007 Agri-Marketing Conference (and 50th Anniversary observance) of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) in Dallas, Texas.

A New Year’s tip about writing advertising copy.

We close this issue of ACDC News with an enduring piece of advice offered in Agricultural Advertising magazine nearly 101 years ago:

“In writing an advertisement,
tell the truth;
then if you cannot think of anything else,
repeat it.”

Please get in touch with us when you see in this collection interesting items you cannot find, locally or online.

Tell us the titles and/or document numbers.  We will help you gain access.
Best regards and good searching.

Please pass along your reactions, questions, suggestions and ideas for the Agricultural Communications Documentation Center.  Feel free to invite our help as you search for information.  And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents we might add to this unique collection.  We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 510 LIAC, 1101 S. Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form at

January 2007

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