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Changing misperceptions about agriculture — AgriPOWER Session 2 blog

By Megan Dresbach, AgriPOWER Class X participant

“Farmer’s just dump fertilizer on the fields.” “Immigrant labor takes jobs away from Americans.” “Farmer’s don’t care, they just want to make a profit.”

All of these comments can be heard daily or referenced across society. The bottom line: it makes the agricultural community cringe because of the inaccuracy. How can the agricultural community change this perception? As agricultural leaders in AgriPOWER Class X, our second session focused on how to communicate to the rest of the world about how and why agriculture uses the practices it does. Even if the communication is only between two people, every step is necessary to communicate the accurate agriculture message.  

Our agenda was packed with all aspects of public speaking. The context of the message, the words chosen, how is the message communicated, attention span, human desire to learn and other aspects that affect how we communicate with those may or may not want to learn. Fortunately, we had speakers who dove into the science and logic that are fundamental to the communication process. After some public speaking practice, it was clear the training served us well. This session provided a very good basic understanding of the skills needed to communicate with the public and media.

Next was a review and in-depth examination about current issues, relevant to Ohio and U.S. agriculture. We can utilize our speaking skills to effectively advocate, but we have to understand the depth and complexity of those issues. Lake Erie has now been declared a distressed watershed, but what exactly does that mean? What is agriculture doing about it? A trip to the Blanchard River Farm Demonstrations provided a clear message that the agricultural community has heard the public’s concerns and is actively doing our part to reduce the impact of our industry. The dialogue around immigration has so many loud voices and inaccuracies. Immigrant labor is vital to the American economy, especially to the dairy and fruit/vegetable industries. The issue is so complex that there is not one solution. We recognize that reforms are needed to match the current needs of the ag community. Finding the best way to do that is challenging, but the conversation has to be on-going to reach any workable strategies. AgriPOWER Class X will see what mountains we can move while in D.C. next month.

A good session is not complete without a fun activity and networking.  Most of the class members came in with zero golf skills. After some golf lessons and lots of laughter, we might just be found on the next PGA tour. But the “takeaway” lesson with golf is: business is conducted in a variety of ways and sometimes it’s on the golf course. Communication is conducted in a variety of ways. What if our participation in a local golf charity event allows me the chance to communicate with someone who doesn’t understand agriculture? What if using a neutral event (golf) allows me to answer a question, correct a wrong assumption or communicate a scientific principle? Golf is a skill, communication is a skill and relationship building is a skill. This session was almost overwhelming in information but all of it was necessary information and skills.

 

Megan Dresbach, a Pickaway County Farm Bureau board member, is vice president of W.D. Farms, LLC, a Circleville-based manure management company. She is a 4-H and FFA volunteer and Sigma Alpha Sorority Alpha Chapter Alumni Board president.