Why you need to share the right agriculture message

Close your eyes and think of the word agriculture. Is your image the same as your friends or neighbors who are not involved in agriculture?

Today’s population is becoming farther removed from knowing how their food is produced. Only 1.8% of the population lives or works on a farm, and there is a lack of knowledge about agriculture. Consumers are easily persuaded by other groups that have untruthful messages, misconceptions and negative videos. Activist groups also have powerful anti-animal agriculture agendas.

According to information shared by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, in today’s environment, the average young adult will have watched 30,000 hours of television or videos, and sent or received 250,000 emails by the time he or she reaches age 21. In the United States there are 4.1 billion texts per day and 24 hours of video uploaded per minute per day. There are 800 million Facebook users and our internet stories stay up forever.

It is every food producer’s responsibility to help bridge the gap between the producers and the consumers of America’s food. There are many ways to accomplish this – educational programs and presentations, farm tours, agricultural events like fairs, one-on-one conversations, and social media where you can blog, tweet, share links and information, and upload truthful videos.

There are three key messages to share – farmers care for their animals, they care for the land and they produce safe and high quality products. Whether you are a 4-H or FFA member or a livestock producer, it is important for you to tell your story by sharing how you raise animals and what you do to care for them.

Keep your story basic – the average consumer has a third grade level understanding of livestock education. Show them you care and what it means to you since you are responsible for the animal’s proper care. Talk about the well-balanced diet your animals receive, how comfortable they are in their housing, how they have access to feed and clean water, how they are observed daily and get treatment if necessary, and how you follow a planned health and vaccination program. Answer questions about life on the farm and the industry. Share how you take care of the land, how you live on or near the land your family farms and that you understand the importance of protecting our natural resources.

You want to be a good neighbor; in fact, you breathe the same air as your neighbors. Talk about how manure is a sustainable fertilizer and is applied to fields to meet the nutrient needs of growing crops. People like to hear facts and testimonies, “On our farm we do this because…” (you can complete the sentence).

Continue to tell your story by talking about how the food you produce is safe and of the highest quality. Emphasize that healthy animals are the foundation of a safe food supply. Most consumers do not understand that there are many government regulations and industry standards to help ensure safe food. Don’t be afraid to tell your story and share some of the regulations you comply with.

Still a little unsure about advocating for agriculture? There are many opportunities across Michigan for you to become involved in and learn more about telling your story. “Telling Your Story” workshops have been offered by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan and the Michigan Dairy News Bureau. In addition, MSU Extension has eight Breakfast on the Farm events occurring in 2012; plus there are other educational programs and resources offered through industry groups and organizations.

Make 2012 the year to tell your story. For more information on general agriculture literacy, contact MSU Extension agriculture literacy educators Nancy Thelen at 734-222-3825 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and Mary Dunckel at 989-354-9870 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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