What is your role in agriculture?
I am living the dream as Director of Communication for the Kentucky Soybean Board and the Kentucky Soybean Association. I am the Kentucky staff lead for CommonGround, and I admin the Facebook pages for both soybean and the Livestock Coalition in our state. I make my living talking and writing about food and farming – how awesome is that?
What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?
I have always lived in the country, and I’ve been around farming all of my life. I will never forget my first jobs as a teenager – one year (ONE!) I grew strawberries for sale to our local restaurants and markets, and after that I spent some time pulling plants and riding the tobacco setter. As an adult, I was part of a small-scale cow/calf operation, and learned to really love livestock – especially cows. When I finally settled into the RGDJ, I realized that because I knew a lot of farmers and some members of my family farm, I had just assumed that everyone knew farmers are the good guys (and gals), out there doing the right thing and feeding the world. When I realized that the trust I’ve always had for farmers wasn’t the norm, I knew I needed to do my part to help share what I’ve learned (and what I have always known) with those who may not be so fortunate.
What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?
Sharing my experiences. I have been SO blessed to see a lot of diverse things as a result of my job, that a lot of folks will never see. I’ve been in large-scale hog operations with gestation stalls on one side and open housing on the other, so that I could stand in one place and see sows living under both housing systems at the same time. I’ve also been on farms with hogs who live in pens outside. I’ve been in chicken barns and turkey barns and goat operations and assorted dairy barns and parlors, and of course Kentucky is a big beef-cattle state. All of the animal ag connections are addition to the exciting things I have learned about row-cropping. I can talk about biotech crops, water, nutrient management, sustainability and technology all day.
What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?
For me, it’s letting people share what they believe, and asking for more information when I already know that they’ve gotten ahold of some incorrect information. I’m thankful for the CommonGround program, and the training we receive through it. I’ve learned that people don’t want to be educated (because that means they were wrong)… they want to make connections and build relationships. Luckily, I’m good at that!
What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?
I think everyone should tell their story. Your story is uniquely yours, and it’s not all happy spring calves and the first soybean sprouts breaking through the soil on a beautiful sunny day. Sometimes it’s a down cow that doesn’t recover or having to sell your herd or a drought or a fire or a flood. Sometimes it’s a tragic farming accident. That’s still part of the story, and I think telling the WHOLE story helps those outside the ag community realize that those of us who work in ag are people – real people, good people, and people who care deeply about what we do.
What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?
AgChat 2015 – Cultivate and Connect, in Nashville, was my first AgChat event, and I almost cried. I have found my tribe! I do love working with the women of CommonGround, and all of my ag peeps, but to find a group made up completely of agriculture communicators? Yes, please and thank you.
What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?
As I said, this is my tribe. These are my people. In addition to the friendships, this is an amazing network of resources.
Rae Wagoner is Director of Communication for the Kentucky Soybean Board and the Kentucky Soybean Association, and has found her career to be what she calls the “RGDJ” (redneck girl’s dream job) on her blog. Rae has always lived the rural lifestyle and jokes that she’s only ever dated one guy who didn’t wear the blue corduroy jacket… and THAT was a mistake! She resides in western Kentucky with her husband, Sutton, and her wiener dog, Savannah Jane., and enjoys reading, cowboy boots, wine and photography… not necessarily in that order.