Many of us can think of one-lane roads — paved, gravel, or dirt — that wiggle all around our state.

They’re usually far away from clusters of cars, stop lights and buildings. Full of memories, stop-worthy views and very few people, it’s not until you meet another vehicle that you must solve the problem of how to get where you’re going.

Maybe you back up a little and it’s just wide enough to sneak past one another. Maybe the other vehicle reverses its course to allow you to pass in a wider spot.

However you manage to pass each other — with a nod and a wave — someone had to give, forward, backward, left, or right for mutual benefit.

These movements apply to the direction we move as an industry in communicating with our fellow Oregonians. We move forward, backward, or stagnate together and sometimes that means moving laterally to get where we want to go.

Some of the strongest movements forward come from partnership and collaboration, particularly with groups outside of our silos in agriculture.

We should always be looking for unique audiences to connect with Oregon agriculture. Sometimes that means arranging a field trip or event, but let’s think beyond that, too.

Are you willing to give in order to get where you’re going? Sometimes you’re in the vehicle that has to back up a little in order to move forward.

For most outreach about agriculture, we might be used to the idea of giving as putting in more — more time, more money, more of our own voices and stories, whether it is in a classroom or in testimony at the state capitol.

An equally important form of giving is the sense of flexibility, of responding and making room for something.

Along with giving our own stories, it is also our job to make room to listen and understand.

It’s easier to share about what you do and why than it is to truly understand someone else’s viewpoint, but when has agriculture ever shied away from a challenge? If we listen to understand, we become better storytellers and that moves us forward because we can find commonalities instead of default to our differences.

We are already sharing our small road in some ways.

There is not one Oregon agriculture in terms of size, production method, location. Oregon’s natural resources are inclusive of not only farms and ranches, but fisheries and forestry, too.

Not only are the operations diverse, but so are the people and towns around them. It’s important we continue to foster relationships for mutual benefit.

We are all important pieces of Oregon’s food, fiber and shelter, as well as the sustainability of our state’s economy and environment.

Every piece of our food, fiber and shelter system affects another part. We may not all share the same challenges between industries and regions, but we share a common purpose in needing to connect Oregonians with what is happening — from the farm, ranch, water and forests we live and work in to Oregonians’ tables, plates, homes and recreation.

As we make room for each other and realize that many of us are headed in the same positive direction, let’s grow in our ability to make room and look around. Maybe the road isn’t as narrow as we imagine.

After all, if there is room for cooperation among natural resources, maybe there is room for others who share similar values and goals: an Oregon where we can live and work for years to come, whether you live in a city or a rural area.

Mallory Phelan is the executive director of Oregon Aglink, a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1966 as the Agribusiness Council of Oregon. Staff and volunteers at Oregon Aglink provide opportunities for Oregonians to engage around agriculture and learn from each other.

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