Why Do we need to advocate?
I don’t think it will surprise anyone but we in agriculture have a challenge. We ALL need to learn how to be an Advocate for Agriculture. With less than 2% of us who farm, there are 98% that do not have a connection to where their food comes from.
That’s a big deal and a big challenge.
Between people’s perceptions and government regulations, agriculture can be negatively impacted. For example, there are many who believe certain ag production methods are better when the reality is they may be very detrimental.
Farmers can be at the mercy of people within the government that doesn’t understand how regulations will affect them. While I agree that farmers should not be placed on a pedestal, they should at least be at the table and have a voice. It’s downright scary when rule changes and regulations are made with no input from farmers.
At the end of the day, we must protect the family farmer. And also realize that family farms can and do look different. Some are large, some are small. Some specialize and some don’t. They are all equally important.
Tell Your Story
You have probably heard this many times. So what does ‘tell your story” mean?
Simply–Talk about what you do on the farm and why. And remember to tell the truth. Consumers truly want to know where their food comes from and they want to trust you but they don’t necessarily trust what you do on the farm. And most likely it’s because they don’t know. Take this as an opportunity and tell them. Tell them how important the environment is to you and what you are doing to help protect it. Tell, tell and tell some more.
And just as important to talking, you also need to listen. Listen to what people are telling you. Be interested and acknowledge their concerns and answer their questions.
How advocating changed and if so, how?
I honestly believe advocating has not changed much but the way we advocate has. The definition of advocate is to publicly recommend or support. Advocating from the aspect has not changed. But there have been changes in the way we advocate.
When I first started blogging about 10 years ago, the way people reached out to me was much different than it is now. It was very common for people to make comments and ask questions within my blog. Now the majority of my interaction with people is via Facebook. I also know that advocates that use video also receive interaction. YouTube wasn’t as popular for agricultural advocating when I started.
The Most Important Aspect of Advocating
The most important aspect of advocating is connecting with people. There are numerous ways you can connect with people–just find what works for you.
Remember to be genuine, honest, and respectful. People need to trust you in order to believe you. Many people have preconceived notions about what we do on the farm. Listen to them. Once you explain why you do what you do, most people will understand. They may not always agree, but they understand. Remember to be respectful.
Specific Ideas on How To Advocate
There are so many ways to advocate for agriculture! Here is a beginners list.
- Talk with people. Start with friends, neighbors, and family. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you do and why.
- Be present. It can be as simple as attending or coaching your kids’ sports team or volunteering at your county fair. Many opportunities.
- Join agricultural organizations such as Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, or commodity organizations such as corn, soybean, dairy, cattle, wheat. They all have volunteer opportunities where you can talk with people who don’t know what you do.
- Be present on social media. I know–social media is not how it used to be and I now there are negatives. But there may be times where advocating is appropriate on social media. Again, be honest and respectable. Don’t take the low road even if they do.
- Write op-eds to your local newspaper. Yes, people do still read newspapers.
- Get to know and talk with your representatives. Again, many of them don’t understand the issues we have in agriculture. Connect with them.
- Start your own social media platform such as YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.
- Do you like to talk? Connect with the media and position yourself as an expert because you are.
You don’t need to do them all! Just find a good fit for you! But . . . Just do it!
You always need to be aware of activists whose sole purpose is to eliminate your livelihood. Don’t go down the hole with them. It’s highly unlikely they will change their mind. Just don’t go there. Don’t give them any energy through your opposition.