Why should farmers and ranchers invest time in advocacy?

blog-content-creationLast week, I posted an article from Forbes that is very accusatory of modern global agriculture. It’s like a laundry list of activist claims used demonize modern agriculture practices. We could spend time angrily responding to articles like this, but defensively reacting to accusations like this aren’t getting us very far. Hence my emphasis on the importance of being PROactive in reaching out, answering questions, and sharing our story with audiences willing to listen.

Part of that proactive response includes farmers, ranchers and members of the agriculture community investing time in reaching out and engaging. Often when I propose this investment to various ranchers groups across the country, I get either a blank stare or a response similar to this:

“I think the biggest challenge is how do we reach out without suddenly being put under a microscope by groups who don’t intend to learn from us. As a dairyman, I have to deal with groups like PETA and HSUS that could care less how “right” I am doing things. It’s all noble and good to teach our urban brethren what goes on out here but in the end, I have a business to run. We’ve had tour after tour of school kids over the years and they always love it. But there has to be a way to tell our side of the story to a broad base of consumers that don’t normally think of where their food comes from. And in the process, not demonize practices like tillage and rBST.” — Jacob, Young Colorado Dairy Farmer

So how do we reach out and deal with being under a microscope? How do we find those who are actually interested in learning more about agriculture? How do we balance this time investment while running our own businesses? For this, I thought it would be good to ask for perspectives from a few engaged farmers and ranchers across the country.

Carrie Mess, a.k.a. Dairy Carrie, has a Wisconsin dairy farm with her husband and in-laws. This was her response:

We are under a microscope. That has nothing to do with us sharing our story. However, how the public responds to the information and propaganda put out by these groups is very much a result of how we share our story. You have a business to run because you have customers. PETA and HSUS want to take away your customers. When they do that, you’ll no longer have your business and then you’ll find yourself with plenty of time to explain what you used to do.  Having tours out to your farm is a great way to advocate for our industry. We don’t all have to reach all of the people. But if we all do something to reach out, via whatever means we are comfortable with we’ll reach those large groups of people. Share your story. Answer those questions. Make those connections. Stay in business. — Carrie Mess

Will Gilmer, dairy farms with his parents in Alabama. This is his response:

In my experience, as long as you are following best management practices and industry standards (and can explain why you use those prices/standards), you should be fine. The pushback I’ve personally seen from the “anti-_______” crowd has been very minimal, to the point that I tend to simply ignore it because: 1) I know our management practices are ethical and up to standards, and 2) I can explain what we do in such a way that most “neutral” info seekers are comfortable with the way manage our farm. — Will Gilmer

73% of online adults in the U.S. are on social media (71% on Facebook, most checking in daily). If you’re going to reach your potential customers and audience, there’s a good bet they’re online. Social Media makes this audience accessible, even from remote farms and ranches.

Why is social media a worthwhile time investment for you?

The answer is probably different for everyone. What would be your response? Let me know in the comments section below.

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