As Indiana FFA State Officers, my team and I have gone through many trainings. We learn about facilitating conferences, working with sponsors, and working together as a team. However, you might be surprised to know the most valuable training we have experienced this year was training on how to tell stories. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.
For thousands of years, humans have been passing stories on to one another—stories of wisdom and failure, of heroes and villains. Why are stories so effective? Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have found that stories stimulate different parts of the brain at the same time. When a story is being told our brains track each aspect of that story. We literally immerse ourselves in the world created by the storyteller by creating the setting, characters, and sensations in our own minds.
I find this information very interesting, especially for people involved in the agriculture industry. Oftentimes, the agriculture industry is on the defensive. We have to defend our practices, motives, and ethics constantly. The main thing we like to share in this defense is factual information—statistics, studies, and surveys. We hurl fact after fact at the American consumer; hoping, eventually, they will catch the information and absorb it. In the mean-time, the opposition goes straight for the emotional jugular, sharing erroneous stories of abuse in slaughterhouses and poisonous chemicals being leaked into our water supply.
I don’t believe this battle can be fought with facts alone. Agriculturalists must utilize the power of the story. Our stories show our values. Our stories show we are human. Oftentimes, we are told to take the conversation as far away from the emotional side as possible. Why can’t we mix the emotional with the factual? If they hear your story first, people will be more likely to accept your facts. In this Age of Information, anyone can access the facts in seconds. The sheer amount of data available is astounding, but it’s also incredibly overwhelming.
In this sea of information, the only thing floating is stories. So get out there, and share your story. It’s easier than ever. We have so many mediums to communicate through—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat. Type out your story and post it. Don’t have any of those things? Talking is great too. Talk to people everywhere you go—the grocery store, the mall, at work, at family reunions. You may think your story alone won’t make a difference, but it will.
We all love a good story. It’s in our DNA. We have an innate need to share our experiences with others. This is what makes us human. It’s not something we should run away from, but embrace. During National FFA Week and for the rest of our lives, my teammates and I will be telling the story of agriculture and FFA. What story will you tell?
Annalee Witte, 18, is thrilled to spend the year serving the 11,000 members of Indiana FFA as the State Secretary. Annalee grew up in the small town of Wilkinson, Indiana with her big family of six. She is a graduate of Eastern Hancock High School. Growing up raising sheep, cattle, and hogs, Annalee was an active member in 4-H and completed 10 years. But her true passion has always been FFA. Annalee was a four-year member of the Eastern Hancock FFA Chapter. This year she was named the National Champion in Extemporaneous Public Speaking at the National FFA Convention. After her year of service to Indiana FFA, Annalee plans on attending Purdue University to double major in Agriculture Communications and Agriculture Marketing and Sales. Annalee hopes to continue to tell the story of agriculture wherever life takes her.