Rural Route Opinion Column: Sarah Marketon
Vance Crowe, Director of Millennial Engagement at Monsanto, stopped me dead in my tracks and made me critically evaluate how I advocate for agriculture.
I have talked with thousands of consumers at the Minnesota State Fair, shared hundreds of positive agriculture stories on social media and I am constantly talking to my friends about food or farming, but I realized I am not sharing the right information with the right people. During Crowe’s time at the mic, he talked about engaging with your tribes.
What exactly is a tribe you ask? To put it into simple terms, it is a group of people who share a common interest. For example, when I heard this presentation, I was at a communications conference. So, you could call the group of people I was with my communications tribe since each of us had an interest in some form of communication or public relations.
This isn’t the only tribe that I am a part of; however, I have my college friends tribe, my church tribe and my work tribe. Everyone has a network of people that spans far beyond agriculture and with a bit of creativity, you will discover that you are part of some interesting tribes.
Crowe made me realize I may have really good information to share, but most of the people who I am sharing this information with already support my viewpoints. So how can we use our tribes to share the story of agriculture and what we do on our farms or at work each day?
It’s comfortable to talk to people who understand agriculture. We know it’s a safe audience; however, that is not where the work is done. We need to stop preaching to the choir.
A good example of preaching to the choir is at the county fair. County fair booths and food stands are a great way to be involved in your community, but one could argue that the people ordering a burger and a chocolate shake aren’t the people who want to talk to a farmer to learn more of where that burger came from. These people are happy to eat a delicious hamburger, and I can appreciate that! We need to put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation with someone who thinks differently than we do, to make a difference.
Farm Bureau is a powerful organization because decisions come from the grassroots level. Farm Bureau members have some fantastic ideas on how to engage those outside the agriculture tribe in conversations about food and farming and the WFBF office has resources to help bring those programs to life. Some county Farm Bureaus have already taken on new challenges by setting up a booth at their local farmers’ markets or local community fairs.
Are you part of a book club? That is a tribe that you can engage.
Consider these other tribes: food writers and bloggers, school boards, parent groups, farmers’ markets or town festival attendees. There is a chance the people in these groups have a strong interest in the food they eat, the food they serve their families or future career opportunities in agriculture.
What are we doing as agricultural leaders to deliver the information they are looking for? How are we ensuring the information they receive is factual and supports the future of Wisconsin farmers and agriculturists?
You have an overwhelming support in the state Farm Bureau staff to bring your ideas to life. There are many staff who are passionate about promoting agriculture and personally, the most rewarding work I do is helping consumers find a connection to the farmers who grow their food.
As a Farm Bureau member, you have the power to step up and support programs that will better the future of agriculture and foster a stronger connection between farmers and consumers. There may be tradeoffs from time-to-time, but ask yourself, “Is it time to stop preaching to the choir?”
If your answer is yes, then I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and engage the tribes that have questions about what happens on our farms every day. Keep this in mind as you plan county events and communicate with members of the community.
As a member, you hold a lot of power when it comes to advocating for agriculture. What will you choose to do with that power?
Sarah Marketon serves as the Director of Communication for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She is a Minnesota native and an active member of the swine industry, which sparked her interest in helping farmers share their story. She is passionate about answering consumers’ questions about how food is raised and encouraging farmers to engage in those conversations.