Most of the time I am surrounded by Ag-majors…my roommates are Ag-majors, my friends are Ag-majors, so when the rare occasion comes along where I am face to face with a “non-aggie”…it can get awkward. Since most of my daily conversions are either about livestock feed, how much I can’t stand Chipotle, or about Sigma Alpha; what I have to talk about to someone who is not involved in agriculture seems limited. So when an agriculture conversion comes up between me and someone without an agriculture background, I have found myself constantly saying, “Oh…It’s an Ag thing” and blowing off prime opportunities to advocate for agriculture and teach something new to someone. Well, lately when a conversion sparks up between me and a non-ag kid, I have been using that chance to give my two-cents. My first couple times being an “advocate” was a little messy, and a bit overwhelming. You either want to slap them in the face with a whole bunch facts or get frustrated at how wrong they are and just walk away; these are not ways to make good connections and change their minds about agriculture, trust me. So here are a few tips when you are “ag-vocating”:
- DON’T WHIP OUT CONFUSING AGRICULTURE TERM-You will start losing people when you start throwing out terms like sorghum, AI, weaning; even though these terms are used on a daily basis for us, they might not ever heard it before. When you start speaking “agriculture” to them, give a little background about what it means and how producers use it. A lot of those annoying, frustrating myths we hear about agriculture come from misunderstandings and confusion so explaining these basic concepts we can begin to smooth out misconceptions.
- USE COMPARISONS TO FAMILIAR EVERYDAY THINGS-For someone who didn’t come from an agriculture background, something that happens on a regular basis in production can seem confusing and impractical, so explain it in a way that they can relate. An example is if your are trying to explain why dairy cows look so skinny to a regular beef cow, you can describe the beef cow as a bodybuilder-someone who wants to gain a lot of muscle to someone who is exercising to maintain their weight. Both, the bodybuilder and the one maintaining their weight, are people who exercise but they have different goals so they are going to look different; just like how the beef cow’s goal is to produce meat and the dairy cow purpose is to produce milk.
- BE UNDERSTANDING , DONT ASSUME-Coming from Kansas, where agriculture is the number one industry, it is hard to understand how not everyone knows that milk comes from diary cows instead of the store, but it happens. Since most people are five generations away from the farm and have only seen agriculture in movies and books, when advocating you have to be understand that not everyone will know the basics of agriculture. This is where the first two tips come in hand!
- SHARE YOUR STORY-MAKE A CONNECTION-I believe this is the best way to “ag-vocate”. When you share your own agriculture story, it makes it personal and agriculture seem less distance. Prepare a little elevator speech about your connections with agriculture, something that covers your involvement in agriculture-maybe your background, your major, 4-H/FFA history, or maybe what you want to do after college; something the defines what agriculture means to you and why you are passionate for it. This will make whoever you talk to see that agriculture is important and will listen to what you have to say.
- GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO LOOK UP-A BLOG OR A VIDEO-Give them more resources for them to explore about different topics in agriculture and let them make their own opinions. Share your favorite agriculture blogger or an awesome Ag video that you saw the other day on Facebook. You can even direct them to an expert in the field they are asking about.
The mission of an advocate is to support their cause and express the importance of it…and what’s more important than agriculture?