How to address those tough and touchy conversations — AgriPOWER Session 2 blog

By Terri Specht, AgriPOWER Class IX participant

AgriPOWER is a unique leadership program comprised of individuals with diversified backgrounds to cultivate a network amongst members and industry leaders. Connecting with consumers and policy development are areas of focus.
27/9/3: was a message presented from Melanie Wilt, owner of Shiftology. What are these numbers? This is a way to organize your thoughts that will resonate and be memorable to others. 27 words, 9 seconds and 3 messages to maintain someone’s focus and attention.

This 2.5-day session was focused on communication, policy development and tours of agriculture in the Findlay area. We toured an ethanol plant, Christmas tree farm, Findlay Animal Science and Equine Center and the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms. We will be fully emerged in policy development next session as we travel to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.

There are many highlights that I captured during this session; however, I will pull out and describe two in detail.

First, ”Conversations with Consumers” was very helpful, as more and more consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from. As an industry, we need to refocus on how we address these tough conversations. Those within animal agriculture are quick to present the “FACTS;” however, this does not gain the positive outcome that we had hoped. It is a proven from the Trust Model that shared values are three to five times more important in building trust than sharing facts or demonstrating technical skills and expertise. We must lead with shared values and connect with skeptical consumers this way. How do we do this? We must change our conversation and acknowledge their concerns. Being defensive about someone’s concerns shuts down a conversation. We are quick to answer but
need to slow down, listen and ask questions to understand. So as an industry, let’s get started – these conversations will get easier the more we engage. Look for a connection; that may be at the airport, grocery store, child’s ballgame or even your own family dinner table, we need engage and embrace the opportunity to share our passion for agriculture. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance sums this up by
using E-A-S-E; Engage (start the conversation), Acknowledge their concern, Share similar values and continuous improvement, Earn Trust! The members of AgriPOWER was challenged with this and I now pass that along to you: engage in 3 conversations in the next 30 days.

Second, what is being done to help protect the waters of Ohio? The Blanchard River Demonstration Farms “aim to help producers find the right combination of conservation practices that reduces nutrient and sediment loss while minimally impacting their financial bottom line.”


We were able to visit one of the farms, and Aaron Heilers, project manager, discussed and explained the importance of these practices and for farmers to be able to choose the practices that make the most sense for their unique farm. Data is being collected to determine the impact certain conservation practices are able to make. This data is gathered through edge-of-field water quality monitoring and “measures the amount of nutrients and sediment in water runoff from a field and compare the improvements under different
conservation systems.”

Session 1 blogs

Eric Reed is excited about implementing the “Building Strong Communities” project.

JD Bethel talks about the strong partnership between Ohio Farm Bureau and Nationwide.

Leadership is influence, explains Melinda Lee.

Session 2 blogs

Communication with consumers is key, says John Arnold Jr.

Stephanie Rucinski vlogs about the relationship between media and agriculture.

Brenda Mescher talks about community “why” rather than “what.”


Terri Specht of Johnstown is staff veterinarian for Heimerl Farms, Ltd. Her family raises cattle, hogs and grain crops. She is a Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau member, coaches the county 4-H livestock judging team, co-assists with the county 4-H Quality Assurance-Hog session, is a member of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and serves on the Pork Safety National Committee.

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