A year ago, I shared what I knew sustainability to be. I reminisced about my father rotationally grazing his dairy cattle and using a nutrient management plan more than two decades ago. I shared that someone believed in me, so I could pursue a career in agriculture.
Little did I know my dad’s conservation efforts of the past would impact my career or that my mentors were sustaining my future in agriculture.
A year later, we are exploring new areas for preserving and protecting the future of agriculture. Environmental successes are important and impactful parts of sustainability, but the concept goes far beyond the farm field.
From managing food waste and promoting pollinators in urban areas to 4-H leaders and youth mentors advising the next generation of agriculturists, everyone must make a responsible impact for the future.
I’ve learned a lot about environmental conservation thanks to wonderful Farm Bureau members who welcomed me to their farms. Last fall, members were fortunate to visit nine member farms – one in each district – during our Leaders of the Land tour series. During this series, we experienced sustainability in different facets of agriculture – from dairy farms to cranberry marshes.
We learned that consumers connect with shared values and farmers share their why. Why do you plant cover crops? Because you care about soil health and want to protect it. Leading with examples and owning the definition helps to connect with a non-farm audience.
Sharing our sustainability story goes beyond environmental consciousness. Sustainability comes with many different perceptions and definitions.
In Farm Bureau’s new 35 Under 35 recognition program, we are challenging others to think of sustainability in new ways. How is an agriculture educator fostering the next generation of agriculturists? How is a salesperson or loan officer helping a farmer meet their goals? Every career and any involvement in agriculture helps to sustain and improve it for the future.
We have many Farm Bureau leaders who are preserving agriculture every day in various roles and we are excited to celebrate their successes.
Idea and Story Sharing
Farm Bureau has been fortunate to partner with other Wisconsin agriculture organizations to collaborate and share ideas in the sustainability space. Just as farmer-to-farmer conversations and communications help to drive innovation and creativity, idea sharing among organizations helps to fuel new initiatives and reach a broader audience.
Farm Bureau has found success creatively using social media to share sustainability messaging. From collaborative campaigns with partner organizations to Instagram reels, we are trying new things and reaching new audiences with these efforts.
Education and Outreach
Farm Bureau is reaching a younger school-aged audience with sustainability concepts and ideas through soil health demonstrations. We created a mini-rainfall simulator to showcase the benefits of cover crops versus bare soil during rainfall. I’m excited to work with WFBF’s Ag in the Classroom coordinator to develop creative ways to showcase sustainability in the classroom.
You may have heard some of our radio advertisements that subtly describe sustainability without saying sustainability. We recruited members to record public service announcements to share how they care for the environment or preserve their legacy. In these ads, Farm Bureau members owned their definition of sustainability and shared their values with listeners.
WFBF is the first state Farm Bureau with a communications role focused specifically on sustainability. Farm Bureau is committed to investing resources in this space to share and celebrate successes. We continue to learn and grow together. Collaboration is key to these innovative and creative initiatives to preserve our land, water and resources.
As perceptions and definitions of sustainability continue to change and evolve, I will continue to share your legacy and find creative ways to tell your story. I’m here to be your trusted resource for sustainability information – both on and off the farm.
Someone who came before you believed in your dreams and your goals. Your mentors, advisors and peers helped to sustain your future in agriculture. Now it is your turn to be the mentor and advisor fostering a successful future.
Someone believes in you and relies on you to continue to produce the safest, most sustainable food in the world. I’m thrilled to offer you resources and work together to share your story.
Rachel Gerbitz is WFBF’s Director of Sustainability Communications and Partnerships. In this role, Gerbitz oversees the organization’s sustainability communication efforts. Column originally appeared in the August | September 2022 Rural Route.