Ask Yourself These Three Questions Before Responding to Your Ag Customers

If you’ve been to any ag meetings or conferences over the past few years, you’ve heard the message that we should all be talking to people about farming, food and ag online,  in person, or at community events, etc…

And sometimes, at good conferences, they will even go into the “what” you should be talking to them about. So you might hear them say (and I’ve said this too) you need to be talking about:

  •      Animal Care
  •      Family Values
  •      Farm Technology
  •      Sustainability and the Environment
  •      Food Safety
  •      Good Farming Practices
  •      Employee Relations

And they might want you to address some of the controversial subjects like antibiotics, hormones, GMOs and animal treatment.

But what I don’t see a lot of talk about is “how” you could talk. In other words, what should your tone and manner be when you want to have an engaging conversation with your customer about ag.

When it comes these conversations, I suggest you try this three question approach.

  1.     What am I trying to accomplish with this conversation?
  2.     How am I seeing them?
  3.     How do I want them to see me?

And this is where I think a lot of potentially good conversations go off the rails. I don’t think either conversation participant has thought these questions through and what began as a conversation turns into a war of words that someone needs to “win”.

But if we use the above approach when it comes to communicating, you can see how it will shape our tone.Starwars

Let’s do an example.

You are on Facebook and you share a positive dairy farming story about cow care on your Facebook page.

dairy farmA question pops up from a person.

Someone writes on the page. “Don’t you think it’s better to have cows on the pasture to keep them cool?”

Now because almost all farmers I know do animal care differently (some on pasture and some not) this question could be considered a threat. I would always recommend clicking through to the person’s profile to see if they are a threat or not. Usually it’s pretty easy to tell if they are against animal ag. But let’s say they are not. They just have a question.

So you have to ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish with this conversation?

I believe that it would be every farmer’s desire to have this person trust what the article says about dairy cows and technology and trust them as a dairy farmer taking care of cows.

What do people trust? They trust people that are experts in their field, that share their knowledge and that are consistent and reliable in what they share. Farmers have a lot of trust already (food and ag especially farmers test high in credibility and authority, according to Gallup.)

So, let’s answer the second question.

How am I seeing them? When it comes to your customers, you need to be honest with yourself in how you see them. When I speak at ag conferences and I show images of young urban millennials doing millennial things (snapchatting, hanging in coffee shops, shopping at a farmer’s market, etc.) I get a few snide remarks and put downs. If that’s how you think of your customers, then it will have a negative effect on the conversation.

So how should you see your customers? They are the heroes of this conversation. What? I didn’t say they were the heroes of your life and you need to be following their lead. What I’m trying to say is that when you are speaking with them, they are concerned with themselves – they are the heroes of their lives.

This brings us to the final questions, how do I want them to see me?

In most stories and movies, what does a hero almost always need to achieve his goal. You got it, a guide. Someone who knows how to help the hero – someone who loves the hero and, in a lot of movies, someone who sacrifices themselves for the sake of the hero.

I think you should consider yourself the hero’s good guide to good food production and good farming practices.

Your customers need someone to guide them. Someone they can trust that knows animals and the land. And this goes right along with other images that they hold about farmers – hard-working, strong, wholesome, happy and tough. You can see that image displayed most often in pickup truck ads like this Dodge one.

There’s an analogy I love to use in class mostly because almost everyone I know has seen the movies, Star Wars.

Your customers are like Luke Skywalkers. They are on a quest for good food that they don’t have to feel guilty about. They want to make sure the food they are serving their families is healthy, tastes great and wasn’t produced by the Evil Empire.

You are like Obi-Wan, a Jedi knight/farmer who knows the ways of good farming and great animal care. You show them insights (I’m not a fan of “educating” people on ag – the term, I believe, is often used in a condescending way by some ag leaders) into how you farm and why you do it that way.

But if you think of yourselves as Obi-Wan’s, then the tone and your attitude change. You don’t ever attack Luke. You are patient and thorough. You use clear language and you never put them down. You want them to be the hero – to rise up with their new information and share it with others because they trust you and your knowledge.

Is it tough to be Obi-Wan? Yes, of course, it is. But does it leave an impression on Luke? You bet it does. Will you still get attacked by negativity? Yes, but Obi-Wan always took the high road because that’s the road of integrity and trust.

via GIPHY

Would you like help in being more like Obi-Wan? You can always reach out directly to me via don.schindler@dairy.org or contact your local State and Regional dairy checkoffs.

Would you like to spread more positive dairy stories on your social media pages and profiles? Please join the Dairy Amplification Center. This mobile and web application allows you to share positive dairy stories (that are updated almost daily) to your social feeds with just one click.

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don-schindler-pic-262x272Don Schindler is the Senior Vice President of Digital Innovations at DMI. Don has been teaching farmers, staff and the dairy industry how to connect with consumers using social media and digital marketing for the past three years. He’s also responsible for new digital technologies at DMI. Before coming to DMI, Don directed the Communications team at the University of Notre Dame and taught classes at the Mendoza College of Business at ND. He grew up on beef and row crop farm in southeast Missouri.

7 Ways for Farmers to Get Involved in Their Local Community

I don’t think there are many occupations that are more busy than farming. On our farm, we have many days that start in the early morning and go to late at night. There is always something that needs tending to on the farm.

But even though we are busy, it’s important for all of us to find time to be involved in organizations—both ag and non-ag. Even if you only choose one organization, be involved.

Why should you be involved?

Our voice is important.

We have a unique and special perspective that is needed today. And not only that, our involvement can make a difference. Sometimes terrible decisions are made today because the decision-makers don’t know how their decisions affect agriculture. The phrase I hear often is, “if you are not at the table, you will be on the table.”

And that’s why we need to be at the table.

In addition, the personal networking and connections are priceless. We talk often in agvocacy about needing to reach outside the choir. Being involved in non-ag organizations allows agriculture to network and connect with many non-ag people.

Here is a list of seven reasons on how you can be involved and why it’s important:

  1. Join agricultural boards or organizations. These organizations allow you an opportunity to give input into areas that affect you directly. The list of potential ag organizations and boards are endless: Commodity organizations (local, state, national), or other ag-related organizations like Farm Bureau, Farmers Union, CommonGround. Choose what area you are interested in and make it known to others that you are interested. Organizations welcome enthusiastic and willing people to participate.
  2. Join your local Chamber of Commerce. Say what? “Why do I want to be a member of the Chamber of Commerce? That is for city businesses.” Because we are a business, something we cannot forget. We need to share our voice with our city counterparts.
  3. Be active in your school. Whether it means helping out in your children’s school rooms, chaperoning a school field trip, being a member or running for a position on your local PTL or run for your local school board. Why is this important? Being involved in your school is another way to reach outside the choir and network with those in charge of educating our children. Think of agriculture education. Think of the fairness of property taxes which fund schools. We need an ag voice in our education system.
  4. Civic organizations. Join your local Kiwanis or Rotary clubs. Not only is it fun but you are giving back to your community through service projects. A great way to connect with non-ag people to share your story.
  5. Government entities. Consider running for your township board, county commissioner or state or federal representatives. Decisions are made in our government and many those decisions affect ag adversely. People just don’t know what they don’t know. Agriculture absolutely needs to be there.
  6. Church. Be active and volunteer in your church. There is a special bond with people who share their religious commonality with each other. Church involvement may not directly affect agriculture but it’s another avenue to connect both ag and non-ag people by praying and sharing fellowship with each other.
  7. baseball-1488004_960_720Coach. If you are interested in sports or other coaching events, please volunteer. It’s a nice release from the day-to-day activities on the farm and volunteers are always needed. So what does this have to do with agriculture? Absolutely nothing. And that’s the point. A great way to connect with non-ag people.

One thing that makes our nation special is the amount of volunteering and participating we do. It really is unique compared to other nations. Being involved allows us the quality of life we have come to treasure. And for agriculture, by being involved we can contribute to that quality of life and also give our perspective on issues, which we all know is desperately needed and important for our nation and for agriculture to thrive.

So let’s become involved.

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WandaWanda is a wife, mother and grandmother from south central Minnesota who farms with her husband, Chuck. They have 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren. In addition to their family, they raise hogs, corn and soybeans. With a passion for agriculture, Wanda is also a blogger talking about the topics most close to her heart – agriculture and living in rural Minnesota. Wanda’s main responsibilities are helping with the crops in both spring and fall, in addition to being responsible for the accounting functions on the farm.

Reducing Food Waste – Talk About It. Be About It.

Food WasteFeeding a growing population has been on the minds of those of us growing food for decades. And as of late, it is something readily written about on our blogs and shared across our social media feeds.

Every day we are conversing about today’s farmers and how we are able to do so much more with less. We highlight how far farming has come since 1960 when an individual farmer could only feed 25.8 people. We talk about, and agvocate for, every new technology that helps us remain sustainable and “feed the 9”, and that’s great – it really is. But, we are missing an opportunity, and quite frankly, doing ourselves a disservice if we are not also addressing food waste as part of that discussion.

Food Waste

Food waste is a huge problem that has been allowed to run rampant for far too long now. In the United States alone we waste a staggering 40% of all food purchased. And yet, food waste is a topic that most remain relatively quiet about. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be more upset about the food we work so hard to grow being literally thrown in the garbage? Shouldn’t we be making more noise on the issue?

The answer is yes. We should be more upset, and we should be making more noise to draw attention to the insane amounts of food being wasted each year. One of the best ways to bring attention to something is to…

Talk About It

Literally, talk about it. Bring up food waste in your daily face-to-face conversations. Then take to your blog and/or your social media properties and talk about it some more. The following are both great ways to engage readers in a virtual conversation.

  • Start a series. Sure, you can publish the occasional post on food waste, but blogging in series is a great way to engage existing readers and gain new ones. I started the year off with a food waste series called Diary of a Recovering Food Waster. The series was one part shedding light on food waste and one part holding myself accountable to my own goals in reducing waste. In it, I shared my food wasting wins and fails, as well as tips and tricks to reducing waste.

Diary of a Recovering Food Waster has since been transformed into a new series – Food Saver Friday. The aim of the new series is to focus on answering reader questions and providing more actionable goals, tips, and tricks for reducing food waste.

The beauty of a series is flexibility. You can post on a weekly or monthly intervals. It can go on indefinitely, or it can have clear start and stop dates. You can write all the posts yourself, or you can take on guest writers. Regardless what you choose, one thing is certain, a blog series is an excellent way to talk about and draw attention to the issue at hand, which in this case is food waste.

  • Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag. Utilize the power of the hashtag by either creating your own, or jumping on an existing food waste related hashtag. For example, whenever I share anything from my Food Saver Friday series, or just a post about food waste on a Friday, I use #FoodSaverFriday (my original) and #WasteLess (one I jumped on by taking the challenge – see below).

Don’t stop with the mere act of hashtagging – amplify them. Engage your readers, and other bloggers, by inviting them to also share posts about food waste and how to reduce it, using the same hashtags.

Be About It

Because it is not enough to simply talk about reducing food waste, we also need to be about it – change our own habits so we can lead by example. If a new habit can be developed in just 21 days, then the Beef Checkoff’s 30 Day Food Waste Challenge is a great way to reform current habits and get started on the path to reduced food waste. The challenge offers simple solutions to common food wasting conundrums, as well as delicious recipe ideas. And the best part, besides the obvious – reducing food waste, is that sharing the knowledge gained by accepting the challenge is not only allowed, but also strongly encouraged.

If you are ready to be about it, click here to take the challenge and #WasteLess.

Every day we talk about sustainability and feeding the world, but imagine the impact we would have if we turned the conversation to food waste. Imagine the number of people we could feed and the resources we would save if we could get even a fraction of our readers to take heed and waste less. So, let’s talk about it, and be about it. Let’s reduce food waste to help feed the world.

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Terryn Drieling Terryn grew up on a small feedyard in northeast Nebraska. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and participated in the UNL Feedyard Management Internship. The internship brought her to a large western Nebraska feedyard, where she worked as part of the animal health crew for more than 7 years. Terryn and her husband run a small herd of cows in partnership with her in-laws. But their day job is living and working on a large ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, raising beef and bringing up their three kids. Terryn writes about their everyday ranch life on her blog Faith Family and Beef.

Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest.

Why Do I AgVocate?- Hannah Neuenschwander

What is your role in agriculture?

In January 2015 I began my career in agriculture with Monsanto at a soybean production facility in northern Illinois. Our facility works closely with almost 200 farmers in the surrounding area who grow over 50k acres worth of seed-bean fields for us. These harvested soybeans are brought to our site where they undergo a conditioning process to remove excessively large/small seeds, bean pods, weed seeds, and other debris that would otherwise make it difficult for the farmer to plant. These beans are packaged and are the product we sell to our farmer customers for planting in the following crop year. We package enough soybeans at our facility to plant almost 2 million acres!

Independent from my responsibilities at Monsanto, I’m active on social media and I maintain a blog, Texan Meets Midwest, where I post about my experiences working in agriculture and relocating from Texas to work for Monsanto in the Midwest.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

My biggest inspiration for becoming an agvocate has been from encountering people who are genuinely fearful about where their food comes from. People shouldn’t be afraid of a food system that is one of the safest and most abundant in the world. It isn’t fair to them and it isn’t fair to the thousands of hard-working families that have dedicated their lives to providing for others. I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I was fortunate enough to learn about the benefits of modern agriculture from industry professionals in an academic setting at a respected agricultural college. Recognizing that not everyone has had that opportunity or has grown up on a farm, I feel compelled to combat the misinformation that groups with disingenuous agendas perpetuate.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

My favorite part of being an agvocate is that moment the person I’m engaging goes from being fearful, or even angry, about how their food is produced to curious or relieved. That’s my goal. It’s not always possible to turn someone 180 degrees after just one conversation, but if I can ease their fear, even just a little bit, I feel like I’ve accomplished something important.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

The most challenging part of being an agvocate is dealing with the intense and sometimes aggressive criticisms of my character, my passion, and my farmer friends. Pushing through that challenge is a matter of remaining true to myself and turning that negativity into fuel that keeps me going!

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Farmers and ranchers have a big advantage in the agvocacy arena. Their day-to-day life may not seem very glamorous or interesting to them, but consumers today are absolutely craving an understanding of where their food is coming from and who’s producing it. Something as simple as posting pictures as they go about their chores for the day can help humanize our industry. My advice is to be yourself, remain steadfast and kind in the face of criticism, and network with other’s who are agvocating on social media for support.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

The first (and so far only) AgChat event I ever attended was the 2016 Collegiate AgChat Congress in Indianapolis. It was incredibly rejuvenating to meet so many other passionate and positive agvocates just like me! My biggest takeaway from that event was that while breaking out of the ag bubble and reaching our target audiences is important, it’s also important to surround yourself with people who support you. I look forward to recharging again at the 2016 Cultivate and Connect Conference this December!

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation has introduced me to a group of extraordinary people from all walks of life and farming backgrounds. The internet is a big place and the people I’ve met through AgChat have helped reassure me that I’m not fighting this fight alone.

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Hannah Neuenschwander2Hannah is a born and raised Texan who grew up showing horses and heavily involved in various 4-H projects. Her love for animals led to her pursuing a degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M University where she gained an appreciation for modern agricultural practices. Just before graduation she accepted a job offer from Monsanto in soybean production that took her 1,300 from everything she had ever known. She now resides in northern Illinois with her horse and cat where she enjoys her time living, learning, and loving agriculture!

Follow her on her blogFacebook, Twitter, Instagram & LinkedIn.

Transparency in AgVocacy

“Eeuuu, Pee-U, What stinks?”

When I hear that from our visitors I know their romanticized view of farming is heading for a change.

“Why can’t the babies stay with their mothers? It seems so mean.”

2

When I begin to share the benefits from feeding the calf with a measured amount, the safety from being stepped on, the freshly cleaned, sanitized stall that they will be watched and fed I can see their perception changing.

“Why aren’t your cows out in the fields?”

Yes, today is a nice day to be lollygagging in the open fields – at least until about noon when it will become stifling hot this time of year. Or, would you prefer in 90 degree weather to be in the shaded barn misted with water and cooled with fans?

A large percentage of people I speak with have their own vision of what my farm will look like when I tell them I am a dairy farmer.

3 4

Some think I go out every morning with my apron on and throw some feed to a few chickens. While I collect the eggs, Farmer goes out to milk our two cows using a three legged stool. Then we all come in and have a huge breakfast made from the fresh eggs and bacon from the pig we butchered a few months ago. After breakfast, Farmer jumps on his tractor to do some field work while I’m in the kitchen canning tomatoes and baking bread. If only.

5At a store one day the clerk pointed out to my daughter-in-law a picture on the wall of a cow with horns. She mentioned that everyone was calling the cow Sally. “But, everyone knows that is a boy cow. Only boy cows have horns.”

My daughter-in-law politely answered “No, all cows have horns.”

The clerk adamantly replied, “No, only boys have horns everyone knows that!”

My daughter-in-law responded with “I live on a dairy farm and all calves have horns.”

The clerk just looked at her and turned away.

One of the occurrences that surprise me when we give tours is that many don’t realize or think through the fact that a cow has to give birth before she gives milk. That’s how it works with humans and once they hear that they think, “Oh yes I guess that’s how it would work.”

We met a gentleman the other day on a park bench and started up a conversation. He was sharing how good his health was for an older man. He mentioned that he was a vegetarian. I said to him “It looks like you’re doing a great job of eating a vegetarian diet correctly. Can I ask you why you chose not to eat meat?”

“Sure. I guess I just didn’t like the fact that my meat would come from those big factory farms that don’t take good care of their animals.”

“Have you ever been to a factory farm or know anyone who owns one?” I asked politely.

“No, not really, but I heard they don’t take care of the animals and I didn’t want to be part of that.”

6“Well, we just happen to be dairy farmers and our farm is big enough to be considered a CAFO – which many people call factory farms. We enlarged our farm to be able to support our three sons that were growing into the business.”

I went on to explain a few things and we invited him out to the farm. When we left, he had our phone number, my farm face book page and my blog information. He called the next day and asked if he could come to the farm with a couple of friends.

A few weeks ago I was handed a sample of cheese at the grocery store and the young lady gave her little speech about the cheese and added “It’s antibiotic free.”

Indian Trail Farm Milk Withhold

This is the chart of withdrawal time for medicines. As a farm we take extra time.

I told her how good the cheese was and the introduced myself as a dairy farmer and began to explain that all milk is antibiotic free. I revealed how our milk is tested at the dairy before it enters the system and that if it contained any antibiotics it would be dumped. I shared with her how our computer system and leg bands would set off alarms in the parlor if a cow that has been treated would enter. They are kept in separate pens. Also, I expressed our desire to care for our animals when sick and sometimes that means medication. Once they are well and the antibiotics are out of their system (which is directed by the company that produces the medication) they may come back into the regular milking parlor.

Overwhelmingly people are listening to the loudest voice when it comes to their food supply. And, usually the loudest voice is perpetuating fear in their message. Making decisions based on fear is not a good thing. And, who can blame you? As a mother I want to be sure my family is fed good, quality, safe food.Indian Trail Farm American FlagMy goal is to be the calm voice of information. I don’t carry signs and protest, or put out heart tugging commercials to get you to donate money to my cause. I basically open the doors to our farm and life through my blogging and face book page. We also physically open the doors to our farm for tours.11

I will show the awesome miracle of birth, the great improvements in the industry, the beautiful fields of corn and the painted country skies. You will also learn about the trials of farming in bad weather – too much rain, not enough rain, snow that caves in barn roofs and pests that devour crops. Along with the miracle of birth you will see the reality of death. It’s is never easy when you have to put an animal down or lose one after spending days trying to save her.10

And there will be poop! A lot of poop. Cows eat so therefore they poop. And poop has a unique odor that many people don’t appreciate. Too many people want to move out to the open fields– the fields that grow food for animals that poop that smell – with wrong expectations.Indian Trail Farm, Duck

The bottom line for agvocating? – My Farmer and sons work terribly hard. The hours are long and their bodies are paying the price. Lately the milk prices are so low it’s a challenge to figure out how to keep the wheels turning. When I see them covered in dust and dirt, falling asleep standing up and then read lies, condescending and twisted articles about what we are doing, I get emotionally upset. I become sad and frustrated that the people eating the food that my family is working so hard for are criticizing what we do. I get angry – you wanted transparency well there you have it. I get angry that we are not only working our tails off physically, now we have to work to explain the truth, to expose lies and soothe fears.

I was a big fan of show and tell at school. Now, I do show and tell on steroids and work to get the truth out to the people who need it the most. When I am sick I go to the doctor for help, not a celebrity or well-known athlete. I want a doctor who is educated, who practices on a daily basis. I encourage consumers to bring their questions here to AgChat or Ask the Farmers Facebook page where they have access to all types of farmers.

You can visit my page – A Farm Wife or my blog and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you.

The next time you have a bowl of cereal with milk or milk and cookies I hope you think of us here in West MI loving the life that helped produce your milk.

This is what we do for fun:

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Insta-Farm Accounts You Should Follow

1. Alison is a wife, mother, ag teacher and shares beautiful photos of their cattle.

Keeping a watchful eye on me! Can’t say as I blame them – I WAS sitting on the ground in THEIR pasture…

A photo posted by Alison McGrew (@amcgrew8342) on

2. Brian is a farmer that loves to share photos and videos of life on his family farm.

Another day at the office. #Monday #Work A photo posted by Brian Scott (@thefarmerslife) on

3. Darleen is a dairy farmer from Oregon. Follow along with her farm’s journey as they add robots to the farm!

4. Jenny is a Kansas farm girl sharing life on her first generation farm.

Storms are approaching. #wheatharvest16 #myksfarmlife #Ilovegluten #ksag #kswheat A photo posted by Jenny Burgess (@burgesshillfarms) on


5. Shelly is the daughter of a trucker from Oregon. Have you thanked a trucker today?

Papa taking the girls out. #Harvest2016 #WheatHarvest2016 #OrAg

A photo posted by Shelly Boshart Davis (@boshartdavisag) on

6. Marybeth is a large animal veterinarian. She shares great recipes and tackles many different topics surrounding food.

7. Jenny is an almond farmer from California. If you have any questions about almond production, she is your girl!

8. Melissa is an organic dairy farmer from Oregon. We think this photo speaks volumes to why you should follow her.


9. Tracy is a custom harvester. Kind of an important role in ag, don’t you think? We do!

Tonight’s sunset with @caserpie. No filters…who needs ‘em? #AAWH16 #HarvestHER #ColoradoSunsets @newhollandag

A photo posted by Tracy Zeorian (@newheatie) on

10. Wanda is a pig farmer from Southern Minnesota.

Women in #agriculture #internationalwomensday #farmher #farmlikeagirl #womeninag A photo posted by Wanda Patsche (@mnfarmliving) on


We loved highlighting these amazing agvocates. Make sure to follow along with the #AgChat Instagram as well!

There’s always news beginnings after every ending. #AgChat

A photo posted by AgChat Foundation (@agchatfoundation) on

How Do You Talk About GMOs?

As part of our “How do we talk about that?,” series, Elizabeth Held shares how she talks about GMOs.

President Barack Obama signed the new federal GMO labeling bill law recently, so GMOs are back in the news and so are myths about them. This makes it even more important than usual to talk with consumers about why farmers chose to grow GMOs.

soybeans-330248_1920While there are animal GMOs, this post will focus on plants.

Genetic modification is a sophisticated plant breeding technique that allows scientists to manipulate certain genes in order to improve the plant some way. GMOs are plants developed with this process. Some examples include virus resistant papayas and insect resistant corn.

This process actually affects fewer genes than traditional plant breeding techniques.

GMOs are completely safe for human and animal consumption. More than 1700 studies have shown GMOs are as safe for humans to be eaten as traditionally bred crops.

GMOs have increased yields and profits, while decreasing pesticide use. A 2014 study found “on average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%.”

GMOs help farmers make use of environmentally friendly practices. GMOs make it easier for farmers to practice conservation tillage, which helps keep carbon in the soil. Additionally, because insect-resistant crops require fewer pesticide sprays, farmers need less fuel for sprayers. According to PG economics, “In 2012, this was equivalent to removing 27 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 11.9 million cars from the road for one year.”

GMOs and organic can coexist. Maryland farmer Jenny Schmidt writes, “Coexistence is an extremely manageable situation and happens more often than you are lead to believe by the media. We practiced organic, conventional, and biotech farming systems simultaneously for 7 years and continue to do specialty seed production which still requires the same level of management to ensure purity. That’s all coexistence is, management and planning.”

It is important farmers have access to all kinds of seeds. As Shannon Seifert said in previous “how do you talk about that” post, “ When we choose our seeds for the growing season, we have a wide variety of traits to choose from: height, grain yield, forage yield, digestibility, drought resistant, standablity, tolerance to insects, resistance to herbicides, etc.”

Do you grow GMOs? How do you talk about them with consumers?

Elizabeth Held is a director at the White House Writers Group, where she advises food and agriculture clients. 

Why Do You AgVocate? Apply to Share Your Story on the #AgChat Blog

ACF why do you agvocateHave you seen our series, “Why Do I AgVocate” yet? It is such a great way for agvocates to share why they do what they do, what inspired them to start agvocating and any advice they might have for others. We have had so many great features so far and we want to hear from you! Why do you agvocate? If you want to share your story on the AgChat Foundation blog, please send the following information by using the contact form below:

  1. Your name & the name of your farm/ranch.
  2. The URL to your blog or website if you have one.
  3. Any URLs to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  4. Why do you want to share your story with other agvocates?

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

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Your Message

What Does Your Farm Say About You?

Is it possible that you are an advocate for agriculture and you don’t even know it? Yes, yes it is. Just by farming and being visible to consumers, you are representing agriculture.

Wait, whaaatt?

ModernDayFarmChick2Think about it. Where is your farm located? Do cars commonly drive by? Probably. Maybe it’s just a few cars a day, maybe you see heavy traffic, but no matter where you are consumers can see you.

These consumers who drive by might be neighbors or they might be folks who are just passing through and have never seen a farm before! Don’t you want to make a good impression? Don’t you want these folks to think, “Man, that is a nice lookin’ farm. I want the milk I drink to come from the cows at that farm.”? If you are anything like me, not only do you want to make a good impression, but you also want these Sunday cruisers to have a positive association with your farm and the food they find at the grocery store.

So, I think an important question is, “What does your farm say about you?”. Do you have junk laying all over the place? Are weeds taking over every corner? Is there are sign in the yard; can people identify who you and your farm family are? I know, I know, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but first impression is  everything.

ModernDayFarmChickA clean view of the farm and a welcoming farm sign can go a long way. Not only does it show that you are proud of your farm, but it also sends a positive message to the consumer. Lucky for us, my mother-in-law is a master gardener, so things are always in tip-top shape!

When your farm is well cared for on the outside, it likely means that the animals inside are well cared for too. And that, right there, is what I want all consumers to know. Now, I know how it goes. I get it. Farming and caring for the animals always comes first and busting out the weed eater, fixing that broken fence or getting rid of that silage plastic doesn’t always make it to the top of the “to-do” list. But, I really encourage you to go the extra mile when it comes to appearance and welcoming consumers. Be a good AGvocate and show them just how much you care for your land, your animals and your community.

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Annaliese

Annaliese Wegner is a dairy farmer from Wisconsin.

You can follow along with her blog, Modern-Day Farm Chick.

Why Do I Agvocate: Elizabeth Held

What is your role in agriculture?

My job is to help farmers and ranchers tell their story. I like helping people find their voice and figure out how to contribute to all the crazy conversations going on about ag today.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Seeing how much misinformation there is about agriculture really pushed me to join the conversations and to help others do the same. There are so many communication tools for farmers now. I try to match the write person with the right method.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

I love it when I’m able to change how people view food and farming. Things like GMOs, pesticides and animal antibiotics can sound scary to consumers, but when we’re able to explain how and why they’re used they become a lot less frightening.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

I find it really hard to deal with the fear-mongering anti-agriculture activists promote. There’s no need to fear your food! We have the safest food supply in all of human history, thanks to modern ag tools.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Tap into the AgChat Foundation and other networks that exist to support you. There’s a lot of resources available for farmers looking to get into agvocacy, use them! I’m always happy to answer questions and others at the AgChat Foundation are too.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

When I attended my first AgChat conference in 2015, I was blown away by just how awesome everyone in this community is. Everyone involved with AgChat is passionate, kind and dedicated to supporting ag. They’re some of the coolest people I know.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation is a great group. In addition to supporting farmers and promoting agriculture, AFC has also helped me make friends. Last year at the conference, I met Rhonda Bode Stoltzfus, the writer of the awesome IowaMeetsMaui blog. Rhonda has since become one of my favorite people and we were able to hang out last time she was on the east coast.

Elizabeth Held is a director at the White House Writers Group, where she advises food and agriculture clients.