What is your role in agriculture?
My “day” job helps me to promote the farmers and ranchers we serve, helping to tell their story. In turn, it’s helping the general public learn more about agriculturists and the pride they have in the jobs that they do! I also speak to commodity groups about telling their story while talking to the media and conduct crisis communications training. My husband and I just bought acreage and are hoping to start our own family farm. We are so grateful for our farm upbringing and want to provide that for our kids one day.
What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?
I kept thinking, If I don’t do it… who will? As farm kids, we constantly talk to our friends, family and folks we meet about agriculture, dispelling myths and helping them to understand the hardworking people behind the food they eat. I am so amazed at the different kinds of conversations we have had including people who are:
- Very interested in where their food comes from, but believe a lot of misinformation
- People who care less about where there food come from but believe EVERYTHING they hear online or from friends who are far removed from farms and take that information as facts.
- Kids who think “agriculture” is a “made up thing” or they have no idea that corn is grown on a cob. They tell me they think it comes from the grocery store and “corn” is the kernel they get in the frozen food section.
I hope that by sharing our life experiences and things that we find interesting in agriculture we will help the general public that follow our progress as a young farm family- understand the trials, tribulations and successes of working in AG!
What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?
My favorite part of being an agvocate is meeting of new friends and bonding over our backgrounds and love for agriculture. It is so fun to see how other farmers live and work. Sometimes living in a rural environment, you feel like you’re on an island, but when you are agvocating, you make friends who are going through the same things, understand what you are going through and celebrate your successes from afar!
What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?
The most challenging part of being an agvocate is hearing misinformation and finding a graceful way to tell people they are off base. It’s also hard to hear that there are people out there who did not grow up in agriculture that believe they know who we are and what we do—they don’t—but people listen to them! The hardest thing I have to deal with is hearing people bash something we have so much pride in. That’s why I agvocate!
What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?
Just do it! The hardest step is overcoming the fear that no one will “care”- they will! The general public may never visit a farm- no matter what the operation type- but you can give them a behind the scenes look at who you are and what you do. When they have a “face” associated with ag, they are more likely to take you as a credible resource and will hopefully use the information you provide to them in conversations with their friends and family. We need to tell our story now, more than ever before, but that takes a lot of people, working together, to get the right information out to the general public.
What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?
I had an ah-ha moment at AgChat where I thought – I DO have a story! Everyone has a story to tell- even if it’s just posting a picture everyday- folks who are far removed from agriculture are hungry to learn more about what we do! I thought who would truly care about the chores that I do every day, feeding horses, plowing fields, fixing broken pipe, we are so early in process of starting our operation, who cares? However, I am the SAME person at my “day job” telling farmers and ranchers they DO have a story to tell and WHY people are so interested in what they do. Since we are coming together to start our own farm- now people can follow our progress. You don’t have to be a large operation to have a story to tell!
The hardest part for me was coming up with a name and writing my first blog post! After that it’s been pretty easy to think of content. As you progress, you see what your followers “like” and can post more of that to build a following. When I realized people WERE interested, it was easy to find things to talk about. If I am lacking information or the right words to say about a controversial topic, I know I can glean or share other information from fellow agvocates and keep people informed about things I think are interesting!
What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?
It’s amazing to know there is a support system in agriculture of smart, hardworking people who are working towards the same common goal. It really is comforting to see people help other agvocates when they receive negative feedback and to read posts from others asking for help explain tricky ag subjects. I have learned so much and it’s only made me a better ag leader!
Jennifer Rohrer-Mengarelli grew up on her family’s third generation dairy farm in Southwest Washington. Her family now raises 150,000 fryer chickens for Foster Farms. Rohrer-Mengarelli worked as the Spokesperson for the Dairy Farmers of Washington and as a television news anchor in Billings, Montana and Spokane, Washington before getting back to her roots working with farmers and ranchers at Northwest Farm Credit Services. As the Media Relations Coordinator at Northwest FCS, she works with the media to promote the companies stewardship initiatives and philanthropic projects. She recently moved to Naches, Washington where her and her husband are working hard to start their own family farm which will include lots of animals, a potential CSA garden and a cattle/bison operation.