2nd Place: 2011 WNAAA Scholarship Essay Contest
How to Promote Agricultural Aviation Positively
For years the agricultural aviation industry has faced the critique and skepticism of those who have failed to look into the heart of aviation and fully grasp the importance of these pilots to everyday demands in the economy. Without the time-efficient and accurate work of these aerial wonders, the prices of produce would greatly increase and the quality of the foods we enjoy every day would deplete; yet the question still remains: how do we make known the value of this industry to those outside of the immediate circle of farmers and pilots?
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the organic foods market. This has provided both competition for the conventional farming method and a negative outlook on agricultural aviation. Public sources have been flooded with the positive hype of organic produce, but some of the facts have been misinterpreted. I believe to positively promote agricultural aviation we should let the facts from our standpoint be heard also. By promoting the farmers we have devoted our businesses to, we will be promoting ourselves as well. For example the number one advantage of organic produce over conventional farming products is the environmentally friendly methods of organic farmers. Many consumers wrongly assume that organic foods are grown without the use of chemicals to kill insects or pests that destroy crops. While organic farmers do not use the same chemicals as conventional farming methods, “natural” chemicals are still used, meaning the chemicals were derived from plants or other natural resources. These chemicals, just like the chemicals from conventional farming, can contaminate rivers and water sources with runoff, but are they any safer than the alternative chemicals? Rotenone, one of the USDA approved chemicals for organic crops, is extremely toxic to fish and somewhat toxic to humans. The effects it would have on water ways would not only be negative towards our water supplies but detrimental to the wildlife. Other chemicals also approved for organic farming are toxic to warm blooded animals and some have been proven to cause Parkinson’s disease. Facts about both sides of the produce war need to be popularized among the public. Also, using manure rather than granulated fertilizer put out by agricultural pilots can convey bacteria from the waste product onto the plants and has a heightened risk of transmitting the bacteria to consumers. In addition to all of this, conventional farming products come at a less expensive price to consumers. This is because the fields are able to yield a better crop per acre due to the aid of agricultural aviation.
Another way to positively promote agricultural aviation is by maintaining good relationships with customers and people in the community. Occasionally, even with the careful precision of agricultural pilots with years of experience and developed skill, chemical can drift onto gardens neighboring the fields being treated. The result sometimes unintentionally damages the bordering plants. Pilots who are faced with the resulting criticism should do their best to make amends with the displeased individual in order to avoid negative publicity. Oftentimes such scenarios can be avoided simply by sustaining friendships and ties throughout the population. If the people in your community or around the fields you are spraying are pleased by both your character and performance, you will be rewarded by positive talk and recommendation of your industry. Furthermore the requirements of being a good agricultural pilot are composed of more than just knowledge of the trade. It involves being reliable, responsible, dependable, thorough and attentive to detail. Again, personality and relationships go a long way in the family oriented rural businesses. The best agricultural pilots understand agriculture and farmers’ needs and are capable of acting as trusted advisors to their customers. All of these qualities in individual pilots are necessary in developing positive promotion for the industry as a whole.
Finally, one of the key ways of promoting the aerial agriculture industry is to educate the youth and future of our country on the dependency of these aircraft to provide the chemicals necessary in fertilizing and protecting our crops. I believe it is important for upcoming generations to understand how the things they eat everyday are produced and cared for. During years when soil is saturated with rain, and ground rigs can’t get into the fields, without agricultural aviation there would not be a crop. The window for planting, fertilizing and applying chemicals to plants is so narrow that without airplanes, the crops would severely suffer. I believe that if we team up with local organizations like 4-H, who already provide a step into agricultural aviation with project books like Pilot in Command, that we can educate the people whose opinions will one day shape our nation’s views. I am sure that organizations such as this would be more than happy to pass on the information shared with them if we would be willing to explain the importance of our industry.
In order to positively promote agricultural aviation, we must reach out to every group of people. We must equip the general public with the facts supporting our industry and our loyal farmers. We must make it our duty, as the people associated with agricultural aviation, to present a positive attitude and genuine feeling of harmony among our community. Each pilot bears the responsibility of carrying out his job to the best of his ability with composure and the devotion to reach for perfection with every field he sprays. We must be equipped to educate our youth and prepare programs to expand the knowledge of our trade among the upcoming citizens of America. If we can accomplish these goals we can surely portray agricultural aviation as the positive aid to our economy that is has proven to be year after year. ♥
Kirsti Plunkett is the daughter of Adam Plunkett, owner/operator of Monticello Flying Service in Lake Providence, La., and Paula Plunkett, a fifth grade math teacher. She grew up in a farming community and made her first ag aviation-related television appearance at age one when she appeared on “Back Roads with Louis Redden.” She was valedictorian of her senior class and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Kirsti is pursuing a degree in mathematics at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and would like to become a high school teacher in her community. She also aspires to start a performing arts department within her school system to give opportunities to children with talents outside the athletic fields.
2012 WNAAA 30th ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY CONTEST: DEADLINE AUGUST 15, 2012
2012 THEME: Stewards of the Sky, Stewards of the Land: Environmental Awareness in Agricultural Aviation