Are you an advocate for agriculture? If so, why do you believe agriculture advocacy is important?
If you are involved in any aspect of our agriculture community, from farmer or rancher to suppliers, services, or retailers, you should be able to answer this question with a resounding ‘Yes!’ In one way or another, good or bad, we all advocate for agriculture through how we represent our community and industry to others.
Agriculture advocacy can often be associated with social media or youth initiatives, but these are actions with implications on all our ability to continue doing business. As consumers speak up about their concerns, they are influencing our markets and way of life. These changes often are sought through policy, purchase decisions, and social pressure on retailers and restaurants.
As agriculture advocates, and as a minority of the population, we have a responsibility to utilize our strengths and advocate through our own means – be it on social media or in our local communities. Advocacy makes good sense for social interactions just as it does for good business planning.
Lessons Learned Through Advocacy
During the past decade (plus), I have encountered many unique experiences with people who are not involved in agriculture through advocacy. People are asking questions and expressing concerns because they want to know more about where our food comes from and how it is raised.
Food is a very personal topic for most of us, and as a result, these conversations often include much emotion. We all feed ourselves and our children and fuel our bodies through the food we consume. We want to make sure what we eat is safe for us, the animals involved, and the environment we depend upon to live.
When agriculture advocates respond to these emotional concerns with facts and science, that response often misses the mark. This is the point where conversations often end or become heated.
Connecting as a real and authentic person is important when responding to these emotional concerns before leading with facts and science. We must speak the same language. This includes the need to provide a foundation and context for better understanding for both parties involved.
Tips for Better Conversations
Throughout my years of being involved in advocacy conversations and helping others in their journeys, I’ve learned a few lessons that can help further our conversations.
- Listen respectfully with the intent to understand
- Respect one another’s views, even if you disagree
- How you share your message makes a huge impact on it is received
- Lead with empathy, not facts
- Criticize ideas, not individuals
- Commit to learning, not debating
- Avoid blame and speculation
Once you learn to utilize these steps, learn to summarize and reflect on your conversations. Then, always leave the door open for follow-up conversations.
If you would like to learn more about advocacy or would like to learn more about my lessons learned through advocacy, reach out to me on social media as @beefrunner and I will be glad to carry on the conversation about a keynote or workshop at your next event.