mission to promote agriculture, we will be highlighting a wide variety of blogs from farmers, ranchers and other agriculture professionals. If you have an idea for a submission (or would like us to feature your blog) email Julianne Johnston for consideration.

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March 2012 Archive for Blogging for Agriculture

RSS By: Pro Farmer Editors, Pro Farmer

As part of Pro Farmer's mission to promote agriculture, we will be highlighting a wide variety of blogs from farmers, ranchers and other agriculture professionals. If you have an idea for a submission (or would like us to feature your blog) email Julianne Johnston for consideration.

'Make Ag Advocacy Part of Your Weekly Regimen'

Mar 29, 2012

About the blogger: Julianne Johnston is the News Editor for Pro Farmer in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She was raised on a Hardin County, Iowa, corn, soybean, cattle and hog farm and was active in 4-H and FFA growing up. She and her husband, Terry, reside in rural Parkersburg, Iowa, on an acreage, with the goal to install the work ethics their fathers passed down to them to their two daughter, Mackenzie (17) and Addie (13).

Earlier this month I had the privilege of welcoming Bruce Vincent, a third-generation logger from Libby, Montana, to the Iowa Soybean Association's (ISA) "Ag Matters Series." Vincent shared his story on how activists attacked the logging industry nearly 20 years ago, and how it changed his industry forever.

Vincent told the audience the political environment is dictated by activists and to "get ahead of your message" through education. The events of the last couple of weeks regarding Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB) are a sad reminder of how the ag industry has fallen behind in this regard.

Because of a smear campaign dubbed "pink slime," over 600 people have lost their jobs at three plants. As we (Pro Farmer) reported March 26, Beef Products, Inc. has suspended operations at three of its four plants that produce LFTB. Because of an uneducated crusade to rid the world of LFTB, food giants McDonald's, WalMart, Kroger Co. and Safeway announced last week they are removing the product from their shelves and USDA has allowed schools to opt out of using products with LFTB.

Watch this to learn more about the "truths" of LFTB:


Now the ag community faces the monumental task of getting this product back on the shelves! Vincent tells farmers that people make decisions based on what they think is true, not what is really true. He understands why forest fires are much more devastating in our generation than they were before the government became involved and made management of our forest system more difficult. "There is a thin line between environmental rules and insanity," said Vincent. "And we have crossed the line and are caving in to people's fears."

"Truth without a champion does no good," said Vincent. "There is a difference between arguing and leading. Use your tools -- provide facts to change public opinion."

That advice rings true today! Now to get the folks employed by Beef Products, Inc. back to work, we have to convince the public this product is safe -- no different than what they perceive as traditional ground beef.

Vincent urges farmers and ranchers to add ag activism to their business plan. "Spend one hour a week educating consumers -- your neighbors and community -- what it is you do and why it's important to them," he said.

"The culture is what's at stake. The industry will live on, but the question is what it will look like. If you want your industry to stay where it's at, then be an activist for it," said Vincent.

What can you do? If you haven't already done so, get a facebook page or a twitter account or both. Find articles that you think will resonate with your audience. Use this blog if your goal is to get the ag community involved in advocating for agriculture (which is my goal).

Personally, I have spent time on the "Food Revolution Community" on Facebook engaging in several conversation with folks that don't understand what LFTB really is. Be civil and educate. Don't argue, just present the facts. You CAN make a difference!

'Is Agriculture Week Relevant to Others?'

Mar 09, 2012

About the blogger: Michele Payn-Knoper, nationally known professional speaker, founded Cause Matters Corp. in 2001 to help people learn how to champion their cause.

"Is Agriculture Week Relevant to Others?"

Many celebrations highlighting agriculture’s contributions are happening for National Ag Week. I’ll be first in line celebrating agriculture and think National Ag Day is a great tribute. Yet I have to wonder…does any of this really matter to those outside of our business?

There’s a lot of lip service paid to going beyond the choir, yet I see few individuals exerting the effort to make this a bigger conversation with diverse perspectives. Many times farmers and ranchers question me about whether we’re preaching to the converted. I always ask them who they are preaching to, in an effort to illustrate personal responsibility. The only way "we" (big picture agriculture) will go beyond the choir is if "you" (the individual) take the risk in connecting with people different than you.

Is this uncomfortable? Probably, unless you’re not really stretching yourself. Is it annoying to have to take the time? Likely, but your future depends on it. Can it be more difficult to work with people than tending to your land and animals? We all know that answer to that one! Do you question whether you can have an impact? Be patient and know there is no one better to be talking about food, fiber, feed and fuel. And people are talking about what you do, whether your voice is in the conversation or not.

If you truly want to celebrate National Ag Week, find five people completely outside of agriculture. Ask what their interests are. Don’t launch an agricultural avalanche – listen to what they have to say. Agriculture may be your lifeblood, but it’s not who you are. Authentic connections start on a human level – not on the farm. Many folks in my workshops struggle with the concept of connecting on common values, but it’s so critical if we want to reach people’s hearts. Rest assured, if we don’t reach people’s hearts – we will never earn the right to their ears.

For example: I’m a working mom doing the same juggling act as many women. That allows me immediately to relate to other women through one of the many "balls" we have up in the air (or which one we dropped). We talk kids, cooking or shopping – not the intricacies of how their food is produced. While I love fitting dairy cattle, I talk hair and share pictures of hot shoes instead of my Holsteins. Our barn is green and white as a tribute to Michigan State University, which means I talk sports (especially Spartan basketball) with guys – instead of what’s inside of our barn.

Relate to people on their playing field – not your corn field. We’re all humans, we all have values. If you want to go beyond the choir, find people radically different than you and see if you can forge a connection. Ask some questions, listen to their responses and have a conversation around mutual interests – preferably without any mention of your vocation for the first few minutes. Once you’ve established a connection on values, you might be surprised at people’s curiosity about your work.

I’m proud to work in agriculture; the passion to help our business connect drives me to expect more than a one week celebration. More from people like you. More reaching out. And certainly more heart connections.  How are you going to do that to make ag week more meaningful?

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