Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Young Farmers and Ranchers FUSION conference with the American Farm Bureau Federation. I competed in the Maryland State Collegiate Discussion Meet and had won a trip to the FUSION conference to compete in the national competition! Food labels and tax policy reform were just two of the topics I discussed with students from across the nation. In addition to learning to work cooperatively in a solution-based discussion, there were also a wide variety of sessions, speakers, and fellow Young Farmers and Ranchers who I learned a few things from.
This is the ratio of how many positive agriculture posts, articles, stories, etc. that it takes to counteract ONE negative story. In my session on advocacy through video and film, it was stressed that we, as farmers and ranchers and agriculture advocates, need to share our stories as much as possible to reach the public. You can throw out statistics all day and go back and forth with someone on who’s right and who’s wrong, but they cannot argue with your story. They cannot tell you that your life experiences are not real. WE are the ones who know the truths about our industry, WE are the ones living this lifestyle, WE are the ones passionate about what we do and if WE do not do it, nobody else is going to.
“Engagement is what’s going to allow agriculture to survive in the future.” –Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation President
Not only is it important to share our stories, it is also important to take it one step further and engage with the public. Consumers do not always trust farming but they DO trust farmers. Use this to your advantage. Answer questions people have and pose new ones that make them think. Any time that you can have a positive interaction and get through to someone, you are creating another potential advocate!
“You don’t have to be on the football team to still cheer for them. You don’t have to be involved with agriculture to still support it.”
During a networking luncheon at FUSION, I spoke with some collegiate members about getting those outside of agriculture involved. It was mentioned that some people are really into football, some basketball and some baseball, but whatever sport it is, everyone still cheers regardless of being on the team or not. The agriculture industry needs this type of support too, now more than ever. There are fewer and fewer farmers every year feeding a growing population and it affects EVERYONE. We depend on agriculture for our food, our clothes, our shelter, etc. We may not all play on “Team Agriculture” but it has a huge role in our lives and we need to get behind it to ensure a successful future for it!
Overall, the FUSION conference was a great experience filled with many opportunities for learning and growth. It is truly amazing seeing so many Young Farmers and Ranchers so passionate and interested in sustaining and building the future for agriculture! I cannot wait for the conference next year in Reno!