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Kevin Folta: Ag on social media needs to be palatable


Let’s face it. Some of us are vocal and loud across social media platforms, while others in the agricultural industry prefer to sit back and stay in the shadows. So how do we get more farmers and ranchers to step into these conversations? Kevin Folta says we need to help teach others how to tell the story and to provide more sharable content and a mechanism to share that content.

The renowned ag scientist and biotech advocate shared his ideas for how the ag community can fortify the efforts of those willing to tell the story during his presentation, “Communicating Concepts in Biotechnology to a Concerned Public” at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting National Convention Wednesday.

Folta said the problem is people trust farmers and scientists, but they don’t like farming, ranching, or science.

“We’re not sharing what we are doing in a way that is palatable. We’re doing good work. Our ag professionals are doing phenomenal work,” Folta said. “How do we get more people involved in the conversation in order to enhance that trust in the science of farming?”

Folta said it’s about demonstrating that we are not a threat and before we can even bring the science of farming into the conversation, we need to practice these steps:


For effective communication to happen, Folta says we must listen to people’s genuine concerns.

“No matter how crazy they are, it’s what they feel, it’s in their hearts, and we have to be sensitive to that,” Folta said. “Once we do that, we establish repertoire and trust.”

Show empathy

Folta says it’s also important to remember facts don’t matter.

“In the world of fake news and the world of internet, facts don’t matter,” Folta said. “If it’s about their family and their food, facts don’t matter, until you establish trust.”

Talk about shared values

“People are seeking honest answers about food and farming. They don’t know who to trust,” Folta said. “The way we win this is talking about our ethics, our values, our commitment.

Once you have established a platform through this model of communicating, producers can start showing evidence that matters and reinforces those values. And Folta says it doesn’t work to start that conversation talking about dicamba resistant soybeans and BT corn.

“It doesn’t move the needle for people,” Folta said. “Those are traits for farmers and not for the average consumer.”

Folta said instead use examples that come from those shared value areas and keep those broader stories of how technology in agriculture can help save lives around the world in mind.

Finally, Folta says the ag community needs to support each other when it comes to communicating on social.

“The most important thing we have to do is to support and promote each other, use our social media networks, use our contacts, use our pipelines to share each other’s information, to amplify our stuff with new audiences,” Folta said.

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