Progressing as an advocate for agriculture requires perseverance, self-knowledge and awareness of top-of-mind issues for consumers, according to two industry leaders.
Anne Hazlett, senior director of government relations and public affairs at Purdue University, points out that having an idea and setting goals are important for ag advocates, but always “be open to taking another path” if doors to new opportunities open.
Further, when in pursuit of one’s goals, keep in mind that “time and energy are finite and a precious resource,” Hazlett said. “It’s critical to know what you care about; focus your energy and resources accordingly.” She also noted that “sometimes you have to say ‘no’” when faced with multiple competing requests for time and attention.
It’s not necessary to have a perfect plan to get started, Hazlett said. “Once you are clear about what you’re passionate about, begin,” she advised.
Referencing her earlier work on rural drug issues at the Agriculture Department, Hazlett said what began as a small list of action steps eventually developed into the Rural Community Toolbox of resources, despite not initially being a “perfect plan sketched out on paper.”
According to Roxi Beck, director of consumer engagement at the Center for Food Integrity, research showing 65% of people surveyed are interested in knowing about where their food comes from presents a tremendous opportunity for farmers and ranchers.
To make the most of that opportunity, “When connecting with consumers, understand what it is that you care about,” Beck said. Connecting with consumers over shared values is a proven strategy for success, she emphasized.
During discussions about climate change, for example, Beck said talking about the long-term impacts of agriculture and explaining why you care (I live on this land, I drink the water) can be effective. Sharing about common agricultural practices not everyone is aware of that benefit the environment such as no-till/reduced-till farming or use of buffer strips on cropland can also be helpful.
Hazlett and Beck addressed grassroots Farm Bureau members during the 2020 Farm Bureau Women’s D.C. Fly-In at the end of September. The virtual meeting was hosted by the American Farm Bureau and the organization’s Women’s Leadership Committee.
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