30 Days: Agvocacy Rehab

Is it just me or do things in the food world seem to be getting worse? When I say ‘things’ I mean attacks on toxic wheat, misleading videos of a dairy farm, artists doctoring aerial photos of beef feedlots, celebrity spout outs, statements arguing glyphosate is to blame for autism or celiac disease {or any number of ailments}, the Food nut, passionate teenage girls fighting against GMOS, attacks against an organic farmer due to an increase risk of listeria, a blog post touting brown eggs are a healthier choice over white or my personal favorite, the end of Thanksgiving because turkeys are poisonous. When you put all of this together in one sentence, or even one Facebook timeline it can make even the best of agvocates become overwhelmed. Even though it may seem like the issues are becoming more frequent, it may be that the food world has been the same as always – it could be that I’m perceiving it to be worse because I’m overwhelmed.

So, as agriculture advocates how do we gain a better outlook? Here are some pointers I keep in my back pocket for the days when I need some agvocacy rehab:

Sometimes the next best step, is a step back.

This past summer I went on a planned but unintentional semi-black out during our county fair. I wasn’t searching for perspective. I was being a 4H mom, volunteering as a county photographer and department superintendent and doing my share to keep our heifers’ stalls clean and still maintain our home. Sitting down at my desk wasn’t realistically possible. Compared to most years, our barns had increased traffic from residents all over the county. I found myself spending time answering many questions. There were many of the common ones such as why are your cows so skinny, can I pet one, what are they? I like to extend those questions to cover the difference between a cow and heifer, hay and straw and eventually encouraging parents to sign their children up for 4H in the coming year. The craziest thing happened. By taking this unintentional step backwards I remembered why I began advocating for agriculture. My passion was refreshed, revived and I was revved up to tell my story.

Detox

For some its knitting, others running, and many enjoy baking – I find that spending time on Pinterest helps my mind relax. My goal is searching for my non-agriculture interests. Of course, you run across pins which might contain misinformation or questions about dairy or even a great tip you could pass along to other agvocates. I have a secret board where those are pinned. When I’m feeling refreshed, I sort through the pins on that board and choose which are worth addressing.

Throw the negativity and drama to the curb.

There will always be people who thrive on being negative and creating drama. The best way to keep yourself energized is by avoiding these types of people. Surround yourself with trusting friends who will pick you up and dust you off when you’ve had a bad day.

Answer this question

Why do you advocate for agriculture? Before you begin, give yourself some time, a cup of coffee or hot tea and a notebook. Look deep inside, peeling back all of the layers, and write your intentions on paper.

Kill three birds with one stone

After you’ve finished considering why you advocate, reflect on your social media use thus far. Determine what you love and what you hate. Write these answers down. Once you’ve completed answering these three questions, hang the piece of paper in a prominent place such as your desk or where ever you are mostly likely to sit down to advocate.

Be proactive and have a strategy.

Help yourself before you become overwhelmed. Develop a list of hot topics that your readers may address – decide how you will respond. Research and identify commonly asked questions about your segment of agriculture – brainstorm about how you will answer those questions. Prepare a process so you know what you will do in a certain situations – you’ll avoid much stress by having answers readily available rather than running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

Minimize your time on Facebook

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks, right? I’m as guilty as the next guy and spend too much time on Facebook. I do make a conscious effort to make the time I am there count. Even with the best intentions, I get sucked into becoming annoyed with the mom who has the beautiful, do-no-wrong kids – even when you know that one of her kids was just in detention last week. Or, another misleading blog post has been shared by a friend. Its one which contains zero credibility but all of my non-ag friends feel its the best thing since sliced cake.

I think we’ve all read these types of posts and they tend to breed negativity and boiling blood. Don’t get me wrong. There are many people who I’m so thankful to be connected with on Facebook. I love seeing old friends’ kids growing up, watching someone be congratulated for a nobel achievement and even those ugly weather reports. Its the negative posts which cause burnout and essentially make us feel overwhelmed. Aside from minimizing your time on Facebook you can also use lists which will thin out some of those ‘Negative Nellys.’

Shut down your email

Email can contribute to becoming overwhelmed in a couple of ways.

  • The feeling of urgency. As a society we’ve been tuned to respond to emails, situations, comments, etc… immediately. Its almost as though we are expected to respond as soon as the email lands in our inboxes, regardless if it is something that can wait. For some time, I’ve prompted people to understand that in situations which warrant a legitimate, immediate response, they should send me a text, Facebook message or phone call. When the mode of contact changes to text, message or phone call, people are more likely to pause and determine whether the response is truly urgent.
  • Spam and subscriptions – Even with the best filters and tightest security, the spam emails can pile up quickly. Add all of the blogs you’ve subscribed to and bam you have extra messages to sort.

8.) Set your Key Performance Indicators – Your key performance indicators or KPI, are how you are measuring your success. These indicators will likely be different from everyone else and unique to you based on which social media channels you use and your goals. Its key to remember these are your goals. Compare yourself to you. Know which KPI’s are meaningful to you and don’t worry about comparing yourself to someone else.

Some examples of KPI’s:

  • The number of followers on Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram
  • The number of likes on Facebook – due to Facebook’s algorithm its more useful to look at your engagement rather than who follows you. A quick way to measure this is by dividing the number of people talking about your page by your total page likes. This will tell you the percentage of followers who are engaged on your page.
  • The amount of referral traffic your blog is receiving from Pinterest (refer to Google Analytics for this info).
  • Take a look at the last 5-7 photos you’ve published on Instagram – how many likes have you received? How many comments?
  • Using a program such as SumAll determine the number of Twitter mentions received on a daily or weekly basis.
  • The number of comments received on your blog per week or month.
    Measure based on your blog’s bounce rate

There are many more indicators you can use. These are just a few examples.

Becoming overwhelmed can lead to the demise of your agriculture advocacy efforts. As we’ve discussed there are many proactive ways to prevent becoming overwhelmed. There are also techniques you can use which will relieve current stress. Keeping stress under control will also keep all of those issues from appearing to be worse or more frequent than they truly are.


Jenny serves as the AgChat Foundation Executive Director while helping manage her family’s hobby farm and in-laws dairy farm in central Illinois. In addition to AgChat.org, she can be found blogging about life on the farm, Jersey dairy cattle, hunting and her boys, all at TheMagicFarmHouse.com.