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Telling your story from the seat of a combine through social media

Andrea Bloom, Vita Plus Published on 14 March 2011

This presentation was made at the Vita Plus Custom Harvester Meeting, held Feb. 23-24, 2011 in Madison, Wisconsin. Click here to see all of the presentations from the meeting.

Plenty of activist groups and journalists are putting their emotionally charged and often scientifically inaccurate messages into mainstream media. Marjorie Stieve, marketing services manager with Vita Plus, said it’s the responsibility of everyone involved in agriculture to balance the discussion.

Stieve offered the following tips for Vita Plus Custom Harvester 2011 attendees to use when talking about agriculture:

Stop and listen.
More often than not, consumers have simply heard misleading information about production agriculture. Find out where they got their information and exactly what their rationale is before you try to address their concerns.

Show you care and want to engage.
Prove to the consumer that you are comfortable with being completely transparent about the way you produce food and are more than happy to share that story.

Lead with your values, not with science.
Today’s agriculturists are proud of the scientific advancements that have led to a safer and more abundant food supply. However, those advancements are sometimes hard to understand for folks who have never been exposed to production agriculture.

Charlie Arnot, director of the Center for Food Integrity, has led several consumer research studies. He’s found that consumers still trust farmers, “they just don’t know that what you are doing is farming anymore.” 

Start by saying you produce food the way you do because it matches your values – you care about your animals, environment and community.  After you’ve established those points, use the science to back up your statements.

Don’t return the mudslinging or think you’re going to be able to go answer-for-answer to refute a whole “suitcase” of items.

Agenda journalists like Michael Pollan are experts at presenting so much information in so few pages that it becomes difficult to clearly identify any one issue or fact. That makes it extremely difficult to argue against what they have to say. 

Instead, focus on what you know and stick to two or three key messages with supporting facts. You have a much better chance of making a memorable impression if you do.

Stieve concluded by reminding custom harvesters that they can’t wait for challenging situations to take action. Instead, be proactive and look for opportunities to share your story and positive messages about modern agriculture production.  FG

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