A couple weeks ago, I had an awesome opportunity to learn about what I’m planning to do with my life. (And the craziness of life would explain why I’m just now writing about it.)
I attended the AgChat Foundation’s National Collegiate Congress. Saturday was hosted at Dow AgroSciences headquarters in Indianapolis and was a day full of speakers and opportunities to learn about creating a social media presence for agriculture. On Sunday we went to Fair Oaks Farms… but that’s a story for another post.
The weekend taught me many things and I came away with many new thoughts about how to be a good agvocate (advocate for agriculture). A highlight of the weekend was following the event on Twitter at #AgChatCC15 so here were a few of my favorite tweets from Saturday.
This quote from Dairy Carrie sums up what many of the speakers talked about. If we are going to advocate for agriculture, we need to know why we are doing it. We may get difficult questions and have our beliefs challenged but if we remember our own stories and remind ourselves of why we value agriculture, it is easier to persevere. I care about agriculture because it is my background, my roots, and my childhood. I can’t imagine where my life would be right now if I hadn’t grown up on a farm in the middle of nowhere Illinois. Now I am learning how to work in and advocate for agriculture as a career, and I couldn’t be more excited!
One of the highlights of the day was having a panel of brave students from IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis). These students had a range of beliefs and habits in regards to how and what they eat. After answering a few simple questions about their life styles, the floor was opened for questions and I was amazed at how quickly hands shot up! Everyone was eager to ask questions and figure out what these consumers thought of agriculture. The conversation that followed was fascinating as those of us on the agriculture ‘side’ tried very hard to be polite to the students that had VERY different opinions. On the other hand, the students on the panel had to be very brave to sit in front of a room that they knew wouldn’t agree with them. Finally, someone made the point above, we weren’t on two different sides, we all live on the same earth and we all have to eat something.
This incredibly valuable statement from Michele Payn-Knoper was especially impactful considering that the entire event was about using social media. Nothing will ever replace the value of human interaction. It is this interaction that helps people trust you and listen to what you have to say about anything, and in this case, agriculture. Those of us at the conference got to see a glimpse of this as we interacted and made an effort to identify with the students on the panel. Throughout the day we were encouraged to find other ways to connect to people before talking to them about agriculture. It’s important to remember that while sharing your story on social media can have an impact, sharing your story in person can be even more meaningful.
I’m very grateful for the time I got to spend at AgChat National Collegiate Congress, the invaluable lessons I learned, and the awesome agvocates I got to connect with!