The Radke Report: There's no cookie cutter way to share agriculture's story
If you’ve been to an agricultural convention in the last decade or so, you likely already know that advocacy is a huge focus at almost every event.
As an industry, a major emphasis has been placed on getting outside of our own circles, stepping outside of our pasture gates, and looking for creative ways to reach our consumers.
And while I’ve picked up a lot of great tools of the trade along the way, the biggest mistake I see is that there is a push for all of us to market, promote, educate and connect in a similar fashion.
I would counter that this not our best strategy. To truly move the needle in a positive direction, we need to embrace our individual stories and work on sharing that with the world.
Our stories are as unique and diverse as the United States of America itself. No two farms are exactly alike, and while we are all committed to providing the food, fiber and energy for the world, our lives, our families, our landscape, our businesses and our stories are uniquely our own.
And we should embrace that.
The experiences of a producer running livestock in the sandy desert or up high in the mountains are vastly different from my family’s operation on the Northern Plains. Producers can be found along each coast and dotting the borders of Mexico and Canada.
All have their own unique set of challenges, but we all have an opportunity to connect with consumers in our own special ways.
Consider Temple Grandin, who reached Hollywood fame for approaching animal welfare in a unique way. Or Frank Mitloehner, who found his niche studying greenhouse gas emissions and now sends his time debunking the cow fart myth.
Then, there’s young up-and-comers like Markie Hageman, a first-generation California cattle rancher, who creates funny memes on her page Girls Eat Beef Too to bridge the gap and strike up online conversations about animal agriculture.
Over in Indiana, Dwight Moudy shares his agricultural education platform Cowboy Ethics to teach kids about the code of the west and principles grounded in optimism, courage and integrity. Moudy spends a great deal of time in classrooms. This spring alone, he will connect with nearly 7,000 students, teaching them about agriculture!
In Nebraska, my friend, Natalie Kovarik created the hashtag #AgIsNotTheProblem where she tackles common misconceptions about meat, and she does it with stylish flair.
Down in North Carolina, Meredith Bernard shares her farm stories with 110,000-plus viewers on her YouTube channel This Farm Wife. She showcases the ups and the downs of raising kids, crops and livestock.
In Missouri, Jason Medows tackles the subject of mental health in agriculture on his page, Ag State of Mind. With his podcast and social media presence, Medows has stepped into a space that is primarily female-dominated and has given cowboys permission to talk about some really hard subjects.
And in my home state of South Dakota, Amanda Nigg promotes health and wellness on her page, Farm Fit Momma. She’s even got a really unique partnership with John Deere going, where participating farm families are sent weights that are painted John Deere green.
I could go on and on listing amazing examples of agricultural advocates in action, but I hope you get the point that there is no cookie cutter way to sharing our stories from the farm and ranch.
Consumers are hungry for truth, authenticity, accountability, transparency and friendship. When it comes to food, they want to shop their values and they want to feel good about the products they are putting in their grocery carts.
As agriculturalists, we can gripe and moan about the policies, regulations and negative rhetoric that hurts our way of life and our ability to run our businesses. However, the counter measure is to get engaged — both politically and actively as leaders in our communities, to show up for our customers in ways that they need it most, and to be unapologetically ourselves. At the end of the day, slick campaigns and smooth talkers don’t build long-lasting connections — we the people do!
So go out there and just show up. Be yourself, and let the true story of agriculture shine. I promise, you’ll attract the right crowd and soon will be surrounded by the best supporters who believe in what you are doing with your family’s agricultural enterprise.
Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily.