Land & Leadership Advocates prepare to promote agriculture
By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
Visit www.gfb.photos/LLApicnic to see photos from the event.
More consumers than ever before want to know where and how their food is grown. Studies show consumers want farmers, not public relations professionals, to answer their questions.
Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) is using its new Land & Leadership Advocates (L&LA) Program to prepare farmers to tell their story. Launched in December at the organization’s annual convention, the L&LA Program is providing leadership and advocacy activities for farmers and those who work in agriculture between the ages of 36-50.
“The idea for this program came to me as I was attending American Farm Bureau Federation board meetings and we talked about developing future leaders for Farm Bureau and keeping members involved after the Young Farmers & Ranchers Program,” GFB President Gerald Long said. “We need this age group to step up to the plate, be involved with Farm Bureau and tell the story of agriculture. At some point in time, this age group will have to lead our organization.”
The American and Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers programs are for members ages 18 to 35. While many former GFB YF&R members remain active in Farm Bureau by serving on their county Farm Bureau board of directors, Women’s Leadership committees, Promotion/Education committees or GFB commodity committees, GFB saw a need to offer programs geared specifically for the 36 to 50-year age group.
On June 18, a group of GFB members looking to become involved in the L&LA program attended a picnic lunch with President Long at Southern Belle Farms in Henry County. They had the chance to learn more about the program and receive advocacy training from Mississippi Farm Bureau member Julie White, who is both a farmer and a Mississippi State Extension specialist.
“Advocacy is taking something you’re passionate about and being able to talk about it to other people,” White said. “Why do we [farmers] only talk about farming with our families and friends? We need to advocate because we don’t want other people telling our story. It needs to be us telling our story.”
A past participant of the AFBF Partners in Advocacy Leadership (PAL) Program, White says farmers can advocate for agriculture by striking up conversations with consumers in the grocery store, visiting schools to read books and talk to students about their farming careers, or by using social media.
“Whether you use social media, talk to someone in the grocery store or talk to kids, tell your story about your farm and why what you do is important to agriculture,” White said. “You have an opportunity to be a leader in agriculture. Just step out and be one! Figure out what your niche [for advocating about agriculture] is and use it!”
White says it’s easy for farmers to use social media - Facebook, Instagram or Twitter - to share what farming is all about. She recommends sharing a photo of someone on the farm baling hay, feeding cows, planting row crops or caring for a sick animal to let consumers see how farmers go about their daily tasks to feed and clothe the world.
“Look at the last five posts you put on social media. I would hope that in some of these you shared something about farming and why you’re doing what you’re doing. It can be as simple as one picture with ten words,” White said.
White encourages farmers to post the hard stuff, like calves dying or struggling crops, along with the good stuff like cute calves and pretty cotton.
“Be willing to share it all. Explain what makes a bad day on the farm,” White said.
After sharing that their farm had stillborn twin calves, White said a week later, she posted that they were able to pair a couple of orphan calves with the cow who lost the calves to nurse. Realizing that farmers and their spouses are busy, White explained that you don’t have to share the work shots on the day they are taken as long as they are seasonal while the activity is going on.
Whatever avenue farmers use to advocate for agriculture, White said, the most important thing is that they be themselves and let their personality come through.
White County Farm Bureau member Nathan Nix, who pastors Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cleveland, has been involved with Farm Bureau for about 25 years. He first served as the county YF&R chairman and has been a county director for a number of years. He and his wife, Tina, want to get involved with the new L&LA Program to learn how to educate the public about how food is raised and get tips for answering questions they are asked.
The Nixes raise commercial laying hens that produce breeding eggs, sheep for meat and honey.
"Society’s conception of farming is so misconstrued. This is why I’m such a proponent of this program,” Nathan said. “We hear a lot about antibiotics and hormones being the reason chickens are growing so large these days. Antibiotics and hormones have been outlawed in chicken production for a while now. We teach people the genetics of the birds are the reason they grow bigger.”
The Nixes are also often asked about nutrition.
“We’re constantly having to explain how we raise chickens and explain what we do,” Tina said. “Some people think eggs from free range chickens are better for you or that brown eggs are better for you than white eggs.”
Visit www.gfb.ag/LandLeadershipAdvocates to learn more about the program.