Val Wagner is a North Dakota farmer, rancher and mother of four boys that talks about all things agriculture and crazy childhood antics over at Wag’n Tales (wagfarms.com). She’s made it her mission to make sure that her boys have a future in agriculture, and hopes at least one of them will grow up to be as involved and as passionate about agriculture as Ryan is…and she’s honored to be a Bandita.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of people involved in agriculture about the importance of having conversations with those people that are buying our products, not only face-to-face, but through other avenues as well.
My friend, JP (www.janiceperson.com), flew all the way from St. Louis to the frozen tundra of North Dakota (and we had a blizzard, which just about threw off the whole idea), just to help share the message and give some pointers on how to get ahead of the issues.
As we wrapped up the presentation and went on to answer any questions, I was concerned that we had hit the proverbial wall. There was a deafening silence as we asked for questions, and I was certain that our information wasn’t well-received, let alone sparking interest. Yet, once again, I was proven wrong.
Hands started going up, people started asking in-depth questions, wondering how to get started, costs that might be involved and risks that they may be asked to take. It was fun to pass on our passion for talking about agriculture to a group of people that seemed to be pretty uncertain of the value of our message.
In fact, conversations like these occur all the time in agriculture. People question the value of a blog such as Ryan’s. They wonder if the conversations are worthwhile…if a difference is being made. And I believe the answer is a resounding, “YES!”
Recently, North Dakota placed two measures on the ballot that affected agriculture. One placed safeguards for agriculture in our state constitution, the other would have allowed the animal rights activist group, the Humane Society of the United States, a foot in the door. Both measures faced what seemed like an uphill battle. Yet, in both cases, agriculture won.
Was it advertising? Doubtful. In the case of Measure 5, HSUS out-spent us by a very, very large margin. Was it door-to-door visits? Again, doubtful. Most of the people involved in agriculture were knee-deep in harvest, not having as much time to campaign as they would have liked.
So what made the difference? Well, I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m guessing someone, somewhere has some scientific reasoning, but I do believe we had the power of networks, trust and were able to have conversations with voters…even if it had to be online. I know from personal experience that several people asked me my opinion (as a farmer) on the measures. And I was confident that my research and thoughts were well-thought out enough to pass on.
Yesterday, when one gentleman raised his hand and said that too many lies are quickly spread throughout the internet, I simply said, “Conversations about food are taking place, all the time, everywhere. They will happen, whether or not you decide to participate. I have decided to participate.” And so has Ryan.