Stop Using Money as an Excuse for Ag Practices

Stop-Using-Money-As-An-ExcuseLet’s be honest here with one major fact about most farmers: most farmers need to make money.

While this is a fact about most farmers, we as agvocates typically use money as an explanation for some agricultural practices. For example: “They wouldn’t do anything wrong because it would hurt their bottom line”, “I do the things I do so I can put food on the table for my family” and “I need to grow my operation to support my family”. While I understand the logic behind each of these statements, they really come off as “cold” and heartless to the unassuming consumer. It makes your family-run farm look like a well-oiled, profit-driven company.

Whether you like it or not you need to think about the perceptions that form from everything you say. While money may be a good reason to the agricultural community, money is not a good reason for the general public. Consumers want to hear you say that you care about their families, not just your own.

Making a personal connection with consumers helps make our message much more effective. Make sure you think about that the next time you are about to use money as an excuse.

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Why We Need to Stop Saying GMO

cs_gmo-freeGenetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Wow I hate those three scientific words. Pushed together to make a perfectly sounding concoction of food and Frankenstein science. Just the fact that we need to shorten it to GMO, makes it even more scientific.

GMOs have been at the center of a very large international debate. “Are they safe?” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue that knows about GMOs. You may not like to believe it, but the words Genetically Modified Organisms actually scare people. This is why at this moment, I am starting a bandwagon to stop calling these crops GMOs and instead call them a different name, a better name.

You see, science is confusing to the general public (here is one example). And when science is confusing to the general public, they don’t ask questions to the scientists, they ask questions to the google world (and who knows what they get out there). And trust me, they don’t trust the people that are economically tied to the success of GMOs.

This is why I propose we come up with a new name for GMOs. So instead of scaring people with the name, we need to make them feel comfortable. We need them to stop being scared to ask us questions.

Here are just a few suggestions: Genetic Crops, Yielded Crops, Increased Yield Crops, Advanced Crops, Modified for Your Environment Crops

Ok, so I’m obviously not a good title writer, but you get the gist. It may be difficult to change the name of GMOs, but I think we need to at least do a better job of explaining this group of crops. Maybe, we make a tagline, GMOs: The Higher Yield Alternative. Just and idea. Either way, we need to stop speaking science and start speaking human.

How to Gain Trust From Consumers

628x471As agvocate bloggers and social media gurus, sometimes we feel we are standing on a soapbox shouting at consumers. We are saying all of these wonderful things about agriculture, but are consumers actually listening to what we have to say? Are they actually trusting the words and phrases we type to them.

When talking to consumers about agriculture, trust is the most important feeling the consumer needs to have towards you (the agvocate).  It is that trust that will stop these consumers from picking up propaganda from other sources and believing it without asking questions (How Ag Will Defeat PETA).

Below are five ideas you can use to gain trust from the consumers that read your agvocate blog.

1. Use pictures and video

Whenever you write about a topic, use pictures and video from your life depicting your topic. While the words you are saying may be confusing or lead to questions, pictures and video will help answer those questions. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

2. Tell them everything

Don’t leave something out because you think it will make agriculture look bad. Telling them even the hairy specifics in agriculture will lead to them trusting you more. You just need to make sure you have a good reason for doing what you are doing and be able to explain that.

3. Provide the other side

You may remember in high school when you had to write an argumentative paper. In this paper, you needed to not only provide your opinions, but also the opinions of the other side. It is important to include this other side in your blogs posts because it allows the reader to make their own educated opinion. Plus, when you include the other sides opinions, it is a great way to talk about the topic at hand and disagree with what they are saying.

4. Provide citations

Whenever possible, provide other blog posts or even news stories that also talk about what you are saying. Including other people’s work will help consumers trust you. People trust news, so use it to your advantage.

5. Answer questions thoughtfully and accurately

Whenever someone has a question, there are several things you need to think about. This is why it is important to be thoughtful. Don’t get caught up in the anger that question has caused you (it is more important to be the calm one). While answering the question calmly, make sure it is accurate. If it is a controversial question string, your opposition will be sitting there ready to pounce on anything that could be inaccurate (leading to a loss of trust).

As these five ideas show you, trust is an important feeling for consumers to have towards you. We need to constantly be aware that every opportunity can be used to gain trust or lose it.

Organic vs. Conventional: Should We Keep Fighting?

I have had many arguments about the organic vs. conventional farming debate. They are my most dreaded arguments because there so much misinformation that is smeared on the wall. While there will and should always be discussions with consumers, the most troubling is those fights amongst producers.

On the day after Chipotle launched an all out attack on farmers, it reminded me that we are a divided industry. An industry that once was united and brought forth campaigns like ‘Got Milk?’ or ‘Eat Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner,’ is now a very divided industry.

Today our industry is attacking each other, both sides containing big propaganda blow horns for the world to see.

Below are the top three reasons we need to stop fighting amongst ourselves and start fighting together against the real enemy.

1. Have you ever heard of divide and conquer?

That is essentially what some of these companies are doing, dividing our industry into the ‘bad’ and ‘good’. They want producers to help them in their fight to make consumers feel like this is the better choice for all, when it might not be.

2. You never know when YOU are going to be under attack.

While your specific sector of agriculture may not be under attack right now, things can change in a hurry. There is always a chance that your practices could come under fire too. When that happens, you will need someone in your corner, perhaps Dairy Carrie or Ryan Goodman, to help get your through it (this is assuming you are not doing anything illegal).

3. Consumers want to make their own decisions.

You may think some consumers are making an informed decision about their food choices, but in reality we don’t know. Feeding them information while not giving them both sides of the story can lead to them feeling lied to in the end. Consumers deserve to know the full story and not just some marketing ploy companies made up.

As an industry, we need to stop arguing amongst ourselves and begin moving towards a unified industry ready to take on educating the world’s consumers. Without each other, there is no one to lean on in the end.

 

3 Rules Card Companies Use for Writing Valentine’s Day Cards

Happy-Valentine-day-2012-greeting-card-Well, if you didn’t know it yet, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. And naturally as a guy, I’m not too fond of this holiday. To me it is just another holiday created by the card companies, but I will say that I really enjoy getting my wife gifts for Valentine’s Day (especially when they are chocolate covered strawberries and she lets me eat one).

Even though this may be a holiday created by the card companies, one of my favorite part about any holiday is looking at the new cards, mainly the funny ones. The one thing I think card companies have mastered is the ability to get a point across in a small amount of words, just like writing titles for a blog post. Below are the top 3 rules for writing a Valentine’s Day card (that just so happen to also pertain to writing a blog post title).

1. Short is Best

Have you ever gotten that card that has the super long poem on it with all of this frilly wording? Yeah, I hate it too. It just takes to long to read and honestly, I like cards that get to the point. Card companies should always be concise in their writing so you can get the point quickly.

2. Turn heads

The best cards to me are the ones that grab my attention and make me want to read the inside of the card. To do this you need to not only use rule number one so they get it right away, but you need to be creative and do something that is going to catch their attention.

3. Know your audience

There is nothing more important in card making than understanding your audience. A card company should never make a pink card for a husband (okay maybe some wives would buy that, but that’s beside the point). For this reason, it is important to have a deep understanding of your audience so you will know what will grab their attention (a.k.a. number two).

Well, I know not all card companies will take my advice, but this is what I like to see in a card (and more specifically titles for a blog post).

 

 

 

How Ag Will Defeat PETA

George O'Leary lying at Notre Dame.

George O’Leary

At one point in your life, you may have had an “ah ha” moment at church. Well, Steph and I have been going to a new church the last few weeks and I had an “ah ha” moment. This weekend, the pastor had a really good message and it got me thinking. He was talking about distortion (or in general terms, lying). The point where I had my “ah ha” moments was when he said, “living a life of distortion, can give you trouble in the end.” Just take George O’Leary’s word for it.

The pastor gave several examples like George O’Leary and it reminded me of some of the struggles agriculture is having with PETA and other animal rights groups. We have all seen PETA promote a video about a dairy farm where animals are being “abused.” I will admit that sometimes there is actual abuse, but most of the time there is a lot of “distortion” in those videos (darkened video, sad music, etc.).

The unfortunate thing is that these videos are working and swaying the public’s opinions on agriculture and its practices. However, I honestly think PETA’s distortion is catching up with them. I have been in several rooms where people have been talking about PETA, not because of their latest video, but about whether they should believe PETA.

This reputation for distortion is something that could eventually be PETA’s undoing.

There is a lesson in this for all agvocates, do not distort the truth…ever. It is better to tell the truth about something upfront, rather than try to explain yourself after someone has caught you lying. Don’t sugar-coat things or only show the “good” parts of your farm. You need to open the barn doors wide open and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. That person may not agree with what you are doing, but you have gained their trust for the next time you are trying to explain a “sticky situation.”

Being always truthful is how we gain the trust of consumers.

Please share any questions or concerns about this topic in the comments section, I want to hear about your experience with being truthful to consumers.

Top 4 Rules to Answer ‘How Often Should I Blog?’

How often to blog

For some bloggers, finding topics to write about is really hard for them. Or it takes them a long time to write a blog post. These problems generally lead to the big question every beginning blogger (and probably most expert bloggers, but don’t want to admit it) asks, “How often should I blog?” Below are my four rules for how often to blog.

1. This is content.

The most important thing to remember is that blogging is content (Why Agvocates Need to Take Notes from Chipotle). For this reason, you need to make sure you are posting frequently (at least once a week, at least). Blogging is a great way to tell consumers about agriculture and we should put out as much content as possible about it, but within limitations.

2. How much time do you want to give?

While blogging a lot is important, you need to recognize how much time you can give every week so you can set yourself up for success. If there are weeks where you can post four times a week, but other weeks you can’t post at all, then you are better off spreading out those four posts over those two weeks. Whatever you do, you need to post consistently so your readers can begin to expect how often you are going to blog. Fluxuating the number of posts can also make your blog harder to circulate to the masses.

 3. How long does your blog take to get circulated? 

While you can blog five days a week if you have enough time, I think it is important to think about how long it takes for your blog to get circulated around social media. As you begin blogging, it will take more time for your blog to get circulated in social media. For this reason, don’t jump the gun on posting the next blog until the hoopla about your old post has begun to die down. We sometimes see this a lot in social media where people will post two news-worthy things close together and not maximize the publicity surrounding both items.

4. Know yourself and your blog

In the end, most of these rules deal with how well you know your own capabilities. Make sure to not stress yourself out over your blog. Blogging should be fun and exciting, not something you hate doing every day. For instance, I could be doing my dishes right now, but instead I’m blogging (don’t tell my wife that). In order for your blog to be successful, you need to be yourself, have fun and know your limitations.