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.

Hannah 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!