Every spring brings a new feeling of hope. In agriculture, it’s calving, kidding and lambing season. It’s a daily conversation about weather with every neighbor and acquaintance farmers encounter to discuss the optimal time to plant this year’s crop. Farmers are the most cautiously optimistic group of people you’ll meet despite the tumultuous working conditions they experience annually. In wind, rain, blizzards, sub-zero temps, floods, drought and fires farmers are still out there tending to their animals and land. It’s hard work, but we’ve never met a farmer that didn’t love it.
This winter has been an especially challenging one, with record cold, rain and snow. Flooding has devasted the Midwest, with staggering losses and livestock and the crop in jeopardy. Many people are seeing images of farms on the news and have questions.
Images from The Weather Channel.
It’s important to tell the story of agriculture. To tell people removed from the farm why farmers get up in the middle of the night to check on their animals or work 18-hour days to get the crop in or out of the field before the next rain.
Most people are three generations removed from the farm, with only two percent of the population accounting for farming and ranching families (American Farm Bureau Federation). That makes it difficult to have level-headed conversations with consumers that believe GMOs are bad for you, organic is healthier and free-range chickens lead happier lives.
Here are three tips on how to tell your ag story:
If you have the opportunity to engage with a consumer, take a genuine interest and ask them questions about their concerns or preferences. Most people sincerely enjoy being heard and it will give you a platform to build a relationship to share your story.
- Start with why.
Why do you dedicate your life to agriculture? What are the values that you want to pass to your children? In many cases, that passion will resonate with a consumer. The statistics, economics and science are important to explaining why you’ve chosen a production system, but you will not win over someone that does not understand the agricultural jargon. If you explain that you care about the environment and that is why you’ve chosen GM seed – because you can use less water, use less chemicals and grow more food – these shared values start to resonate with consumers. Now that they’re getting to know you and finding the common ground you share, they are more likely to trust you and ask more questions.
Say it loud, say it proud. The only one here to advocate for you, is you! Social media not only gives you a platform to participate in conversations about food, but also allows you to build a community. That community can involve other farmers/ranchers and people from an entirely different background, like food bloggers. There are hashtags like #AgChat, #RealPigFarming, #AgTwitter that can connect you with other ag industry people and hashtags like #FoodChat, #FoodieChat that can connect you with food bloggers. Some of our favorite food and lifestyle bloggers to work with are A Dash of Sanity, Houseful of Nicholes, Girl Carnivore, Blackberry Babe, Clean Eats Fast Feets and 365 Days Of Baking.
Learn how others are communicating effectively through shared values here.