Meany head. Talk to the hand because the face ain’t listening. I know you are but what am I? I’m rubber, you’re glue; whatever bounces off me sticks to you.
All of these are insults you probably have not used since elementary school. Why? Because they are childish. Yet, we use similar insults, like “stupid” or “idiot,” frequently on the internet.
How is this effective as representatives of the agriculture industry? According to Brandi Buzzard Frobose, it isn’t. On her blog, Buzzard’s Beat, Brandi coined an open letter to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the height of the Green New Deal debate.
Throughout the letter Brandi offers education about farming and ranching and even commends Ocasio-Cortez’s dedication. Not once does she insult the congresswoman.
“People aren’t stupid because they don’t know about agriculture, they just don’t have the same opportunities or knowledge we do. There are lots of things I know very little about — but it doesn’t make me stupid, just ignorant of the way they work,” explained Brandi.
Brandi actively engages the public on social media and through media outlets, striving to teach people about modern agriculture in a unique, informative and inviting way. For her, it builds toward a conversation. And she has advice for her fellow advocates: No matter if you’re talking to a TV station or being quoted for an article, always pick a few points that you want your audience to remember and use them often. This ensures that no matter what portion of your interview is used or which quote is pulled, your point is heard.
Genuinely looking to educate not only helps your audience trust you, but it can also provide credibility. That strive for education was what led Brandi to go viral and be featured on national television.
Going “viral” was not the goal of writing a letter to Ocasio-Cortez, however. Education, addressing issues, and providing clarity on points in the Green New Deal was the main goal of the letter. But the fact that these goals were achieved in a nice and respectful manner contributed to the success of the letter.
On her blog discussing the things not seen on the MSNBC interview she touches on her goal for the letter and for her advocating: to reach people. “Is our goal to reach people that agree with us? I welcome the opportunity to speak with the older, urban millennial parent that is more likely watching MSNBC, and I hope to be a resource for them. I challenge you to do the same.”
Her advice to someone looking to be an advocate or serve as a resource for agriculture is simple. Make a connection and follow the golden rule – aka treat them like you would like to be treated.
Her experience has taught her that the most effective way to educate is to treat others well. “Almost everyone just wants to learn. They want to ask questions and receive answers in a respectful environment,” Brandi said.
Name calling endangers that environment and decreases the likelihood of someone using you as a resource for agricultural knowledge.
When speaking, in person or online, aim for education instead of insinuating their lack of knowledge. Remember that name calling gets you nowhere. They aren’t stupid, just not as blessed to have the knowledge of agriculture that comes from a life on a farm or ranch.
Brandi explained that people are afraid of being viewed as stupid, therefore they might not ask questions.
“People don’t want to learn from someone who is mean to others on the internet or someone who calls them stupid.” she said. “They want to learn from a farmer and rancher. They want to learn from you.”
Michelle Bufkin is a freelance communication specialist whose goal is to help producers bridge the farm-to-plate knowledge gap that exists with consumers today. She uses her full-time position as the Membership and Communication Director at the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association to interact with producers and work on building that connection.