'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?