Why Do I AgVocate? – Bekah Gustafson

What is your role in agriculture?

Most of my day-to-day farm roles include working the horses and all the daily chores of keeping them and our girls happy and healthy, shuffling guys between equipment and fields, helping with field work, making hay, or delivering meals to the fields, and holding down the house while my husband is in the fields. Because my husband and father-in-law work off the farm, much of our farming happens in the evening or on the weekends. Beyond the daily or seasonal farm work, I agvocate to share my story with others and help them to understand the importance of farming.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Through conversations both on-line and in-person with family and friends, I saw a disconnect and lack of understanding for exactly what it is that farmers do and why they farm using the practices that they use. I saw them fall to lifestyles changes that were fear driven, with no real knowledge or reason of why they were really making the change other than a, “I read somewhere that this is supposed to be bad for you.”, explanation. Because of these conversations I saw a need to share my story about our farm and reach out to tell consumers about food and farming and bridge the gap between consumers and famers. I also feel that if we don’t share our story, then our future as farmers may be at risk, and I want to provide my girls with the same dreams and opportunities that we have today.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

The community of agvocates is definitely my favorite part of agvocating. Farming is hard, it’s hard work, its hard on family, a marriage and on the checkbook, and having a community of support to lean on, to pray with and understand our struggles is encouraging and sometimes what it takes to get through the tough times. Agvocates are a community of friends to celebrate the victories with, that understand the importance of each little victory. Agvocating in itself can be a struggle, with many consumers that are not so receptive of our practices, this community of agvocates jumps in to back each other up and take a stand together against an issue.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

The most challenging part of agvocating is dealing with the difficult conversations. The conversations where a consumer is not looking to be educated, and they are just looking to stir the pot. Sometimes it can be challenging to get into those conversations, knowing it may not go well, but it is our responsibility to educate and stand up for the things we care most about, and if we don’t share our stories or start those conversations, then we aren’t doing our job, but also know when to walk away from a volatile conversation.

Another challenge that I face, along with many farmers, is making the time to join in the conversations. There is always something to do on the farm or work around the house and finding the time to sit in front of the computer to write the email, blog post, chat on Twitter, or even leaving the farm to attend an event can be a real challenge.

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

Just do it! I have found that you just need to get out there, make the time, have a voice and take a stand. Stand strong in your faith and morals, and share your passion. Farmers are few and far between, consumers need to see us stand together and uplift each other. Farmers are very smart people, but do not know everything, and you might just have the answer that someone is looking for, and when you can answer a consumer’s question or jump in to support another agvocate, it is amazingly rewarding.

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

#FoodChat is always a lot of fun. It can be fun to connect with consumers outside of the farming community and have the opportunity to answer their questions to clarify the many misconceptions they may have. The Twitter chats always make me think a bit by asking some challenging questions and bringing up some interesting points.

What What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

AgChat Foundation means that when I speak and share my story, I have a community of farmers and other agriculturalists that support me. AgChat has provided encouragement for farmers to share their stories through social media, and a place for consumers to connect with those that grow and raise their food directly.

Bekah Gustafson loves her role as a farm wife to her husband of 11 years, mother to their three horse-crazy girls ages 3, 6, and 8. Together with her in-laws they farm several hundred acres of corn, soybeans and hay. Along with crop farming, they have horses, and are working at starting a beef operation in 2016. Her husband also works off the farm as the Service Manager for the local John Deere Dealership. When Bekah is not busy with the girls or horses, she can be found at her sewing machine quilting or writing for magazines.