(After reading this, please continue to parts 2 and 3.) Last week I had the opportunity to join the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Class for their session on media training and a tour of WinRock Farms on Petit Jean Mountain. Director of Communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Daren Williams (@Real_Beefman), came to share his insight and information from the NCBA Master’s of Beef Advocacy program. (Let’s see if I can get a few more links squeezed in there!) I won’t cover everything we discussed in the two days but will just hit the highlights. If you ever want to read live updates with my trips, I usually try to share tips and facts on Twitter through the #AgProud tag.

Fun Fact: The logo for the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association represents the outline of a Santa Gertrudis as thanks to the late Winthrop Rockefeller. Yes, Arkansas has our own Rockefellers. A transplant from New York, Winthrop established Winrock Farms, near Morrilton, Arkansas. In 1967 Winthrop was elected Governor. His son Winthrop Paul followed his father’s footsteps and was elected Lt Governor prior to his death in 2006. The Rockefellers’ Winrock Farm is still known today for high quality Santa Gertrudis bloodlines, more recently adding Red and Black Angus and stocker calf feeding to their programs.

As rough as times may seem today, the beef community has been telling its story in the atmosphere of controversy for many years. Today we face concerns of food safety, environment, animal care, health, and many more. Our’s is a topic that touches every person who eats beef, uses leather, or has a concern for their environment. This, along with many other reasons, is why grassroots advocacy is so important in promoting our cause and sharing our story. In this instance grassroots advocacy represents each individual telling their own story of producing food.

As a cattle producer our first reaction to controversy can be defensive, Why should they determine what I do for a living to be wrongdoing? Rather, we have an obligation as producers and advocates to be receptive to consumer feedback. If consumers have the concern, it is a valid question. Consumers have questions about beef and we should hear them out. Once consumers understand that we can be receptive the want to know that we hear them, their concerns, are working to address them. Let’s face it, as cattle producers we know not everything we do may be perfect and we are always working toward progress.

The more consumers know about us, the more they will trust us. This is where social media and community outreach come in as great business tools. Not only can we reach out to those concerned consumers in our community, but we can keep them current on our production methods and events through blogging, tweets, facebook pages, and events open to the community.

Worried you have nothing to share? Here’s an example. Consumers are concerned about the environment and agriculture’s impact on our resources. Farmers and ranchers do something every day to reduce our impact on our environment. We should be sharing this with consumers. Show them what we can do and are changing so we are not passing the blame.

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In later parts of this short-series I will show you how to share with consumers, what message they are looking for, and tips for approaching your local media. Thanks again to Daren Williams for working to share the MBA program.

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