Why Do I AgVocate? -Alison McGrew

What is your role in agriculture?

My role in agriculture spans across many areas. I am currently employed as the office manager at McGrew Feedlot Equipment. Before resigning in 2014, I was a high school agriculture teacher & FFA advisor for eight years. My “other” full-time job is operating a 40 head Simmental & SimAngus cow/calf beef operation with my husband and our two children. My husband is the manager of a family owned farm supply company. With us both having full-time jobs, our cattle operation is what we focus our time on the weekends. Although our kids are young, they are outside with us and pitch in on the things they are able to. I feel very lucky to be a part of several different aspects of the agriculture industry through my love for agriculture education, current job, my husband’s job and our cattle operation.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

My inspiration to agvocate stems from my passion for agriculture. I have often thought about what I would be doing if I wasn’t involved in agriculture and I get emotional thinking about it because I honestly I have no idea what I would be doing. Agriculture has always been a part of me and always will be. I hope that my children have the same passion for agriculture that I do someday.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

I am very thankful for the connections I have made in the short time I have been agvocating. I have had the opportunity to visit with Chicago area moms that are a part of the Illinois Farm Families program and enjoyed telling my story to them and answering their questions. Being involved with the Illinois Beef Association and Illinois Farm Families group has allowed me to receive a little bit of training about agvocating, but all in all I am just being me. Most generally when it comes to agriculture and farming, the producer wants to be transparent and honest about what actually happens. I hope that is the way others view me when I am agvocating and telling my story. I am just being me. Although every day is not sunshine and rainbows it is just part of agriculture and I am just trying to bridge that gap between agriculture and consumers.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

There is no doubt in my mind that the hardest part about being an agvocate is having those that are uneducated about agriculture criticize what those in agriculture are doing day in and day out. People can be very bold when they are typing from behind a screen and posting online. Being an agovcate and putting mysef out there is not for the faint hearted. Those that are eager to verbally attack a person for providing facts about what they are experts on do NOT actually want the facts. These fact may actually allow them change their minds and they don’t want that. They are not the moveable middle. It is hard to avoid these people and ignore their rude comments, but you must! Agvocating requires me to be open, honest and transparent while also being guarded and cautious about what I post and who I interact with.

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

My advice would be to just get familiar with the variety of social media outlets and engage in casual conversation with other agvocates! Making your blog and other social media sites visible is very helpful in putting yourself on the map! Be yourself!

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

I can recall several occasions where an agvocate was being verbally attacked on Twitter. Someone posted on the Facebook group about needing some assistance and within about 5 minutes, myself and many others jumped in to assist. It was very obvious that the person doing the attacking did not want anyone to change his mind, but he quickly learned what he was up against.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

I first learned of the AgChat Foundation via Twitter a couple years ago. I try really hard to participate in the Twitter events as much as possible. I, unfortunately, have not had the chance to attend an AgChat event, but I feel like I can relate with others in the group already. I must admit that meeting up with AgChat volunteers as well as other social media “agvocacy” groups is on my bucket list. I interact with these people all the time and clearly have the same interests and would love to connect in person someday!

Alison grew up on a grain, cattle and Standard bred horse farm in Central Illinois. She was involved in 4-H and showed cattle and pigs. She graduated from Western Illinois University and taught high school agriculture for eight years before resigning and leaving the profession. She continues to work in agriculture. She and her husband and their two children have a 40 head Simmental cow/calf herd in Western Illinois. Alison also volunteers her time with the Illinois Farm Families group.