“The world truly is led by those who show up,” Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn told over 750 attendees this week at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Nashville. Chinn challenged members of the audience to say yes when opportunities arise, otherwise others may tell your story in a less-favorable light, she warned.
After serving a term as the national chairman of the AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee, Chinn went on to serve as a state board member for Missouri Farm Bureau. In December 2016, newly elected Missouri Governor Eric Greitens asked Chinn to lead the state Department of Agriculture. She was initially reluctant to accept the offer, citing family and farm obligations.
While weighing the governor-elect’s offer, Chinn reflected on her time serving as the Young Farmers & Ranchers chairman. “I realized that we had better show up and we had better make sure our voice is heard, or we’re going to have a lot of changes on our family farms that we won’t like,” Chinn said. She decided to accept the role in order to further the story of agriculture.
Chinn believes that farmers can be their own best advocates. “You do not have to have a title to lead from where you are,” she said. “The activist groups are afraid of us standing up and sharing our story, because the one thing each of us possesses that you can’t buy is a passion for what we do on a daily basis.”
Telling the story of agriculture on social media can be extremely powerful. “If people are getting their information off of the internet, that’s where we need to be,” Chinn said. “If we’re all out there using social media to tell our story, we can make an impact,” she said.
Chinn also encouraged farmers to remain positive and not engage in mudslinging. “[Changing minds] isn’t about standing up, preaching and telling someone that I am right and they are wrong. It is about listening to their concerns and trying to understand where they are coming from,” she said.
Building and preserving relationships is also key. “Make sure that while you’re disagreeing with somebody, that you may decide to disagree on a topic, but don’t hate that person and don’t burn your bridge with those people,” she said.