Many amazing farmers volunteer to agvocate as association leadership, through social media or as part of larger programs, like CommonGround. In taking valuable time away from their farms and families, they act upon their belief that creating a dialogue that acquaints the public with modern agriculture is essential to ensuring a bright, vibrant future for the way-of-life that they love.
State and national communications staff appreciate that, for farmer volunteers, leaving busy operations involves a major investment by farmer and family alike. In light of such, it is essential that those helping organize these programs evaluate the effectiveness of every opportunity, carefully weighing the potential benefit against the possible impact upon the volunteers.
Let’s face it- it takes a lot to walk out the farm gate, onto the stage and showcase such an integral part of every grower’s life, his or her farm. Volunteers face public scrutiny and, at times, even criticism based in misunderstanding of either farming practices or of the specific operation itself.
Watching a lovely grain farmer who grew up around cattle gracefully handle sharp criticism of poultry-raising techniques, despite the fact she herself had never set foot into a broiler operation, can spur the thought, “I really hope that something positive comes of this- because she deserves results.”
CommonGround volunteers across the country are seeing positive results as the bloggers, reporters and other food thought-leaders they interact with come to understand and respect the achievements and character of the American family farmer.
On St. Patrick’s day, CommonGround hosted a dinner, upon which the National Corn Growers Association reported immediately following the event. The initial story provided a peak into the thoughtful, creative events many state programs are hosting.
Yet, one question remained. Would the attendees relay their experiences that evening? Did the volunteers manage to make a real connection?
As in many prior instances, the answer appears to be a resounding “yes!” Just yesterday, an influential Kentucky food blogger, who uses the name “foodie girl,” recounted her encounter for her readership. Peppered throughout her step-by-step how-to on preparing the cheese grits served at the event were her thoughts about the farmers she met and her impressions.
Impressed she was too. Foodie girl praised the women for their cheerful, warm demeanor when answering questions, noting that she was struck by their genuine passion for what they grow.
“I look forward to getting to know the ladies of CommonGround better and to discovering the wonderful food they produce with their own, trusted hands,” she said. “Now that is something I can feel good about.”
Opening a positive, constructive dialogue about modern farming is something that we can all feel good about too. While building the connections that elevate the public discourse and create trust takes effort, it is worth it when volunteers, and everyone involved in grassroots agvocacy, can see the how the discussions that will impact the future of farming changing their tone.