What is your role in agriculture?
I was born and raised as the 6th generation on my family’s farm in central Iowa. Together my folks, sister and I raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle. I married a pig farmer and we own swine finisher barns and raise show pigs in Central Iowa with our two young children.
I enjoy being involved in local groups that support the farmers who are out there sharing their stories like #RealPigFarming Social forces by the National Pork Board, the Iowa Food and Family Project, Iowa Pork Producers Association and the AgChat Foundation.
Being a farmer today is a great connection point to people who don’t have direct ties to the land or farming any more but still feel drawn to it.
What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?
I always say I became an agvocate unintentionally. In 2013, I started a blog called “Food & Swine” which was meant to be a place to share recipes that I’d had success with as a contest cook and baker and also stories of our growing family. Many of those stories of my family included life on our farm, so agvocacy found me and it has been a welcome fit.
What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?
The best part of being an agvocate, for me, is the opportunity to meet people and learn their story. Whether I’m chatting with a person who is a 7th generation farmer or someone who has never stepped foot on a farm before, agvocacy has connected me to people I otherwise would have never met. I’ve met some of my closest friends in the past few years on this path. I’m quite thankful for that.
What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?
The most challenging part of agvocacy for me, is seeing and hearing food elitism and food snobbery in any arena. I’m a huge fan of consumer choice, but really dislike when people ‘soapbox’ about food and in turn, farming practices. The challenge here is familiarity: typically these people have never met a farmer, or stepped foot on a farm and it is going to take many farmers and ranchers to change that and help people become familiar with farming again. Another thing that challenges me, is not to step up and ‘respond’ to every negative situation that is placed in front of our industry. It’d feel great to write a ‘comeback piece’ and get my thoughts out there but I often feel that it does more harm than good.
What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?
I’d advise anyone who has the desire to start their journey in agvocacy to find a group (like AgChat) so you can have a support system. Then slowly, one social platform at a time, build a following, gain their trust and share your story.
Oh, and don’t over think it. Sometimes the most simple information, photographs and thoughts tend to be the best and most popular and well received. Just be yourself and do it ‘your way’. There’s plenty of room at the table of advocacy, and not everyone has to agvocate the same way, that’s the beauty of what we do.
What What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?
The people of the AgChat community are wonderful. The support coming out of this organization is a blessing to everyone who desires to share their story. The network of people and businesses involved and supporting AgChat is second to none. It is like a family.
What What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?
The AgChat Foundation is an important tool for farmers and ranchers alike to have support in sharing the story of what happens on their farms. AgChat can amplify the voices that we have, and that is vital in the quest to continue to bridge the gap between consumers and those raising their food.
Cristen Clark is a 6th generation Iowa farmer, wife and mother of two. She started the blog Food & Swine to share contest winning recipes and stories of her growing family. Her favorite time of year on the farm is during harvest, she has a penchant for big tractors and slow sunsets. She enjoys spending time with family, newborn baby piglets, Cross Fit, fast pitch softball and baking pies.