From FFA National Convention website www.FFA.org
INDIANAPOLIS – Ag advocacy is the act of informing individuals who may not be familiar with the story of agriculture about agricultural practices. There are many ways to be an advocate for agriculture, also know as an “agvocate”. Here are seven ways to be an effective agvocate, based on advice from student workshops at the 89th National FFA Convention & Expo.
- Advocate consistently over time. According to JT Thoms of Growing Leaders, by advocating consistently over time you can gain influence, even when it does not feel like you are making a difference. Over time you will get better at refining your message, talking to people and sharing the story of agriculture.
- Don’t let an opportunity to advocate slip away from you. If a false post about agriculture comes across your feed, you have the opportunity and option to either throw a fit or take action. “Are you just going to get mad” Thoms asks, “or are you going to get busy and create change?” Agriculture needs more proactive advocates to talk about what we do day in and day out.
- Address misconceptions about agriculture in your local community. Often one of the best ways to make change is in your own local community. “If you don’t do it, then someone else will,” said Leah Thimgan, past New Mexico FFA State Officer, during the How Do You #AGvocate? workshop. Brainstorm misconceptions about agriculture that individuals may have in your hometown. Directly address those issues at your next local agricultural outreach event or social media post.
- Answer questions with factual information, not an annoyed outburst. Instead of getting worked up, take a moment and think about how you can effectively answer questions about agriculture. According to Thimgan, use facts instead of responding emotionally. Look for data, statistics and facts from credible online sources like the National FFA Organization and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
- Link your work with the work of other agvocates. In the How Do You #AGvocate? workshop, FFA members wrote their answers to common misconceptions about agriculture on slips of paper. The papers were then linked together into a paper chain. Just as a chain is stronger than a single link, our agricultural message is stronger and more cohesive when we work together. Seek out other agvocates, connect with them over social media and work together through blog posts or outreach events.
- Use anecdotes to support your message. Personal stories about your agricultural experience are more relateable. In the #SpeakAg workshop, sponsored by Merck Animal Health, Monsanto, Syngenta and Tractor Supply Company, anecdotes were noted as vital to creating a good message. Most people love a good story, whether it is about waking up early to tend to newborn animals or working outdoors on the farm with your family.
- Examples can help illustrate our cause. In the #SpeakAg workshop, discussion centered around telling our story with examples. For instance, someone from New York City reading a blog about a dairy farming family in California will be more likely to understand dairy farming if examples of daily life on the farm are explained with both pictures and words.
To be an agvocate one must take action to meet the audience right where they are. By using this advice, we can all strive to be better agvocates.
By: Dominique Germann
Dominique Germann is a senior at Fresno State majoring in Agricultural Communications. A past member of the California FFA Association, Germann is reporting on the convention and expo as a member of the 89th National FFA Convention & Expo Newsroom Crew.