Back in 2011, it was a fresh new year and I was contemplating setting a resolution. I tend to stay away from the typical fitness or finance goals, and I was seeking a resolution that would be meaningful to myself and others, but also one that I was likely to actually follow through. I can’t say why, but I chose to become more active in promoting the Canadian beef industry.
As a rancher and an animal science graduate, my resolution wasn’t especially far-fetched, but it did became a useful catalyst to inspire me to become more in involved in my sector. Up until then, I had always thought that being an advocate for agriculture, or an agvocate, was someone else’s job, a task that was better left to others who had more time and skill. Since resolving to a part of the conversation, I’ve learned that I am just as responsible for sharing the beauty and value of ranching as anyone else.
It’s been five years since I’ve made my resolution and it continues to evolve. I’ve participated in mentorship programs, communication and leadership training. I’ve engaged consumers, students, and even activists, and I’ve also had useful conversations with my farming peers. There have been moments of fun and frustration, as well as some valuable lessons.
Share – Often I will come across an infographic, video clip or article that so wonderfully captures my thoughts on a particular farming topic. If someone else is doing a better job explaining an issue, the best (and easiest!) thing I can do is draw attention to it. Simply hitting the “share” button is a great way to start agvocating to your friends and family.
Keep it natural – it is easier to share what you know in a format that you are comfortable with. Some people favour social media or blogging to get their messages across. For others, it may be easier to reach out at a local grocery store or classroom and have a personal conversation about agriculture. The outcome may be similar whether you prefer using Facebook or face-to-face but you will be more likely to keep the conversation going if you enjoy the journey.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – Sometimes I think farmers underestimate the beauty of our surroundings. I share a lot of photos of things that are commonplace on our ranch, including wildlife, wide open spaces, and (obviously!) cattle, and I’ve been surprised at how pictures really resonate with followers. No matter how carefully I may write a blog post, I still need an audience who is willing to invest their time to read it, yet a picture can instantly evoke a feeling that can’t be replicated.
Make the time but keep it brief – Everyone is busy and nobody has extra time. This is true for farmers, and it’s also true for our audience of consumers. Make the time to create (or share!) effective messages that are short, respectful, and to the point.
At the end of each year, I look back through the photos and videos I’ve collected along the way. I find that it’s easier to let the pictures do the talking, and this past year was no different. My husband and I celebrated ten years of marriage along with the ten year anniversary of the creation of our ranch. This collection of images represents our story for 2015, a story that continues to evolve.
Canadian agriculture is vital to maintaining our economy, culture and environment and farmers work hard to produce safe food while caring for the land. Our story is ours to share and it’s up to us to communicate our value.
A new year is upon us… what is your resolution going to be?