This was always a source of contention for me and I’m still learning how to be an agvocate. I learn more every day but it’s really not that hard, I promise.
I chose this picture for two reasons:
- I was a bright shiny new high school graduate, that mean’s you’re supposed to know everything right? You’re supposed to have the world figured out. I hate to break it to you, but at this point I still didn’t know how to do a lot of things, like agvocate. I was such a baby!
- I think our expressions say it all. Is this the face you make when you’re trying to decide how to agvocate? Or if you should put your agvocate cap on? (hint hint- you should always have your agvocate cap on)
- Side bar – I think Garrett and I were discussing the switching of the tassel so the photo would be authentic with us just being graduated and all. What goobers.
1. Is there a right or wrong way? Are you going to be penalized for expressing an idea in a different way? Forever cast off into the abyss because you worded something a little different? Believe it or not this question plagued me long before I became an ag comm. major. I understand, you want to be an asset to the industry. It was kind of like when I had the dilemma of wondering if there was a correct way to pray. Well…is there? Personally, I know when many children are young they’re given a set of words to guide them to help them talk to God. I never formally was (except before lunch at daycare), and this didn’t mean God didn’t have a presence and that I didn’t talk to him – it just meant that I really did wonder for a while if I was doing it right. You know what, even if I prayed a little differently God still listened and was able to help me every day. I think it’s the same way for agvocates – there’s not a set of magic words or approved script. You just need to promote agriculture in a positive way. Here are some ideas to get you started with agvocating well:
- be knowledgeable about your subject and know that agriculture is ALWAYS progressing and improving, and this might mean your perspective changes too
- take the time to not only listen to, but to understand concerns
- be polite and use not only facts but empathy to address a concern because emotions trump facts
- if the concern you’re addressing is substantiated by a post or video that negatively portrays agriculture please evaluate it before jumping conclusions (Unfortunately agriculture does have bad apples just like any other sector and while we are doing our best to prevent unfortunate situations, when they do occur we need to recognize them. Commenting that this is the norm really isn’t helping anything, all it does is perpetuate the negative connotation of the original post and the idea that these aren’t isolated instances.)
2. How do I agvocate better? You should always be improving, I certainly am and that means that when we agvocate we are striving to do and be better. Some easy ways to agvocate ‘better’ (and seriously these are just suggestions!) may be to:
- adapt your terminology to something more familiar to your audience so that there is no confusion
- be aware that some words you’re using have different connotations, for instance describing an agriculturalist as a producer rather than a farmer may make the consumer you’re educating feel more distant and agriculture more industrialized
- take pictures of things in agriculture with a consumer’s eye, there’s no telling what someone who may be uneducated could read into them (for example, I know livestock gets dirty – it happens, but when you’re going to post a picture on social media it’s important you’ve taken steps to ensure that this snapshot will positively define agriculture for someone who has no experience with it)
- write posts about your everyday activities wouldn’t be possible without ag
- always be both humble and polite when addressing concerns
- tell your story, it’s how people will be able to best relate if they’re not involved in or educated about agriculture, you’re their connection
- highlight how producers care for their land and animals every day
3. Is agvocating hard? No, it’s actually super easy and for those of you who aren’t necessarily comfortable talking with consumers quite yet, use social media. I’m not saying every single instagram photo, facebook post, pin or tweet has to positively be geared towards informing consumers but every once in a while it’s a good way to use your energy. It only takes a few minutes to send a message out to the hundreds of people that follow you or are friends! For those of you comfortable actually holding a conversation I certainly encourage you too.
I hope this post took some of the guesswork and taboo about agvocating.
Thanks for reading!
p.s. all these screen captures were from content I shared on my old blog, but the tips still apply:)