I’m an aspiring runner. There was one day in high school where I ran a mile in 6:30 and that’s likely as fast as I’ll ever be. I don’t run marathons, and a 10k is a comfortable distance for me right now. In all reality, I hate running and push myself out of bed each morning to lace up the shoes and go. But it’s the feeling I get during and after the run that’s hard to beat. It’s a great way to clear the mind and see the world like I never would through a windshield. It’s also a great opportunity to use my interests in health and fitness to meet more folks in town and be an advocate for my passion of agriculture.
Earlier this month, I checked another first off my list as I participated in the 205-mile Ragnar Relay Series race in Napa Valley. I joined 11 other members of the Montana Ranching community to compete as a part of Team Beef – Montana Running Ranchers. We finished the race in just over 29 hours and had a great time doing it! 28th place overall, out of 561 teams. 17th in the Mixed Open division.
Our vans were wrapped in ranch brands from our sponsors and Team Beef logos. We passed out beef jerky to teams along the route and used it as an opportunity to utilize our mutual interests to promote the image of beef as part of a healthy diet. The reception from race participants, who were mostly from San Francisco, Southern California, and urban areas of the West Cost, was much warmer than I had expected. Folks wanted to take photos next to our van, loved our beef jerky, and were intrigued to learn that we were all from family ranches. We only had one person turn us down, saying they are “powered by plants” and that choice is just fine. We were still able to have a great conversation and enjoy our time at that exchange point.
Prior to the race, I had an opportunity to view the San Francisco Bay from a boat and we went under the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate, went up to some huge ships at the Port of Oakland, saw the piers of San Francisco, circled Alcatraz Island, and saw a few dolphins and seals up close. Then at the end of the race (finished in Calistoga, CA) we drove along the Pacific Coast Highway. It was my first chance to step into the Pacific Ocean, which is MUCH colder than the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t recommend making the drive in a 15-passenger van. Other than that, it was well worth the great views!
San Francisco and the Napa Valley provided some great sights. The Golden Gate was huge and the Napa vineyards were very neat. It’s amazing to see the drought in person, after having read the headlines all year. Those folks are hurting for water. The Bay area is a little more liberal on social areas than what you’ll find across most of the country, but I’ll let them keep those views. Overall, it was a great experience, a great motivator for running habits, and a great trip away from the normal work routines.
My biggest takeaway though is that we should be doing more to reach out to events and communities like those participating in events like the Ragnar Relay Series. Here you have over 6,000 people, actively expressing an interest in health and fitness, in a fun atmosphere, and our group of 12 people from Montana were the only ones actively representing agriculture, farmers and ranchers, and those who produce the food who fuel those athletes. Wow…
I know there are many in the agriculture community who enjoy running at some level, maybe not marathon runners, but most could make it for 3 to 5 miles at a time with a relay team. I realize, running a family farm or ranch doesn’t leave an abundant amount of time for training and taking off for 3 days to ride in 15-passenger vans in run in the California fog in the middle of the night, but it can be done if advocacy and reaching out to these consumers is important to you.
Our group was tired, our vans smelled like sweat and came close to biting the dirt a few times on midnight runs, but it was a great time. Those impressions we made along the route may not have turned into direct sales for Montana ranchers, but guarantee you those folks who we met and talked to will at least think about those Montana ranchers who ran in Napa next time they consider buying beef. That’s one step closer toward putting a face to their food than we were at the beginning of the month
We answered multitudes of questions and I was amazed at how interested participants were in learning what Team Beef was as we went along the race route. If more of us participated in events like this (large and small, nationally and local) we can go a long way toward connecting the dots with consumers who are already expressing an interest in health, fitness and food.
Maybe running isn’t your strong point? At least consider others areas where you might find a mutual interests with non-ag audiences. First, for your enjoyment, but also because we need to take advantage of those advocacy opportunities.
To read more about the trip, see photos, and listen to a podcast with our team organizer, be sure to read the thoughts I’ve shared on my work blog – mtstockgrowersblog.com.