Why we must be communicators for agriculture

By Kelsey Gunderson, MCGA Agvocate

On November 3-6, I was given the opportunity to attend the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.  It was such a great chance to meet with other college students who also have a passion for the agriculture industry.  I participated in the second track of the conference where we focused on communication in agriculture. We went through sessions on using social media, understanding body language and how to make effective presentations.  Throughout the four days, I met with industry leaders, learned about different and effective ways of communications, and connected with other students from across the country.

While focusing on the use of social media, we talked with a panel of industry partners that explained their use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to advocate for agriculture.  Much of our society gets their information from these types of media, so a way to spread agriculture news is by engaging in social media discussions, linking articles, pictures and videos to our messages, and by simply talking with people directly.  We listened to speakers such as Ashley Collins of AgCareers.com, Betsy Beard of Monsanto, Michael Berry of Specialty Fertilizer Products, and Darin Grimm, a farmer. Each spent time talking about how they have made an impact on others by using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. 

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association uses social media on a daily basis where people can find information about corn, ethanol and agriculture on Facebook by “liking” Minnesota Corn, Ag News by Farmgirl and Rooting for Ag.  On Twitter, the public can follow @mncorn or @AVoiceofAg for information. 

The ways we communicate are always important when we are talking to others about agriculture and we have to be sure to convey our key messages correctly. These were points made by Jana McGuire of Center for Food Integrity and Hugh Whaley of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance as they discussed the importance of spreading our agriculture message.  Each gave participants many key tools in talking with consumers, discussing the correct words to use and the importance of listening to what each side of the story has to say.  We know how important agriculture is and it is our responsibility to talk to the public about what farmers do.  We need to be the instigators, start the conversation, and tell people about the food they are eating and what we do as farmers on a regular basis.  We can also try to reach people through the media, writing blogs, engaging in social media and writing to newspapers.

It was an exceptional conference that reminded us that we have a continued job ahead of us and we all need to be advocates for agriculture.  This year’s theme was “My Piece. My Place. Our Future.”  We each are a piece of this agriculture puzzle and we have to find our place in this world to help sustain our future.

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