To advocate for agriculture, don’t overlook your own circles of influence

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Farm Forum

Huron, S.D. — Agriculture advocates are wise to reach out beyond the industry to talk to the urban consumer about how crops and livestock are grown, but as it turns out, this isn’t the only approach for ag-vocating.

“It’s not always about searching for new people to share your story with, but telling it in a new way to those that you already know,” said Josh Geigle, a young rancher from the Creighton, S.D., area and recent graduate of Farm Bureau’s Partners in Agricultural Leadership (PAL), a two-year training program that enrolls only 10 Farm Bureau members in each class, chosen among applicants nationwide.

Geigle was asked to be a speaker on this topic during the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual meeting held recently in Orlando, a convention attended by more than 5,800 people. He and fellow PAL classmates Katie Heger of Underwood, N.D., and Brandon Whitt of Murfreesboro, T.N., conducted a breakout session about how to advocate for agriculture within your own circle of friends.

“Advocating for agriculture through your circle of friends enables you to reach consumers within your circle, plus those who might be outside your circle,” Geigle commented, noting that a person’s “circles” could encompass their friends, relatives, co-workers, professional contacts, classmates, church members, civic groups, their community and more.

To get the conversation started during their breakout session, Geigle and his co-presenters shared these ideas:

• Host a banquet in a field or pasture.

• Open your farm or ranch for tours.

• Create leave-behind items, like a small container of seeds labeled with a crop fact for hotel staff.

• Design table tents for restaurants.

• Visit a local classroom as a guest speaker.

• Host a sweetcorn picking party.

• Create a video documenting your farm/ranch history.

• Post pictures and videos of everyday farm and ranch life on social media sites.

“People could also consider getting their farm or ranch logo placed on a few items of clothing. That is a great conversation starter,” Geigle commented.

“This is a really smart approach,” commented Krystil Smit, executive director of the South Dakota Farm Bureau and 20-year veteran of agricultural communications. “Even here in South Dakota, people who aren’t involved in agriculture are often a couple of generations removed from the farm or ranch. You can have more influence than you realize right within your own circle of friends, family and community. Don’t overlook the opportunity to share with them. Because you already have the relationship with them, they will hear what you have to say.”

Geigle is active on social media and has been successful in telling his agriculture story to his online circle. Follow him on Twitter @bargcattle, or look him up on Facebook. Josh and his wife, Shasta, are the fourth generation on his family’s ranch, raising cattle and crops, plus three little ranchers: their children Owyn, Moriah and Sully.