It’s been said that passionate people can be difficult people — and boy, are agriculturists passionate about the food, fuel, and fiber they produce, the politics, and the weather that affects them. And consumers? They’re equally passionate about what they feed their families, food safety, food insecurity, animal welfare, and more. Without the added stress of current trends and media fear-mongering, this high level of passion can make advocating for agriculture feel like a steep and winding climb.
Most of us are familiar with the statistic that roughly 2 percent of the U.S. are now responsible for feeding the country, but what does that mean? The average person is now three or more generations removed from agriculture. That means that as advocates, we still need to resonate with the Boomer generation while also relating to a Gen Z population that has never known a world without Instagram.
Being an effective agvocate these days requires a little more forethought and perseverance than it may have a decade ago. Most want to see agriculture remain a robust and global industry represented by innovative professionals. It’s important to remember that news travels quickly in the social media age, and so does misinformation.
With that in mind, how can we better prepare ourselves to advocate?
1. Look before you leap. You can avoid making a face plant on Facebook if you’re willing to put a little effort into making sure that what you’re sharing has a forward-thinking purpose behind it. How will your message resonate with the consumers that follow you?
2. Information is power, and context is crucial. The more you know, well … the more you know. Do you fully understand what you’re representing when you click “share”? If not, it might be worth catching up on the subject with a verifiable, fact-checked source. And, you may want to know the opposition. That way, you’re on the ready when consumers start asking questions or sharing misinformation about agriculture.
3. Ask yourself, why am I sharing? What is your goal in sharing? Does it have the ability to connect to people outside of agriculture? Can it connect to them in a way that educates, creates meaningful conversation, or makes them laugh? If your information were to go viral, would it help you communicate with the public or further widen the gap?
4. Ask questions to connect with consumers. We can learn so much about consumers if we take the time to figure out why they’re interpreting information how they are. Even in the virtual world, what we say and how we say it has the power to sever communication lines or to make a lasting impact through a personal connection.
5. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth a million. Photos and videos can give people a glimpse into what makes you passionate about agriculture. They can also mislead consumers if not paired with a background story. Some striking examples that can go haywire are photos branding cattle or treating produce. When paired with an explanation, these images may resonate more meaningfully. Without, it’s pretty easy for a person without prior agriculture knowledge to think we’re bad people.
Farmers and ranchers can connect to hundreds if not thousands of people with a button. We often find ourselves getting wrapped up in the passion and sensation, but this is when we may all need to pause and review the five tips listed above. And remember, just as you’d probably prepare a bit ahead of time to speak in person in front of a large audience of hundreds or even thousands, a little bit of prep and forethought can go a long way in advocating online.
Heidi Crnkovic, is the Associate Editor for AGDAILY. She is a New Mexico native with deep-seated roots in the Southwest and a passion for all things agriculture.