Jolley: Five Minutes with Michele Payn-Knoper and the food fight
A. Respectful conversation starts with a relationship and finding commonalities, and is often enriched by leveraging the power of a community. Focus your energy on the 70-80% in the middle, not the zealots or entrenched on either end of the spectrum. An example is a recent #AgChat on animal welfare. HSUS had sent out a message to encourage their followers to participate and even suggested some tweets. The ag community turned out with great energy, was able to have a positive conversation, and not be distracted by naysayers. This very visible type of conversation illustrated the type of hard-working, trustworthy people engaged in farming.
It's not realistic to expect that people around the food plate will agree on every issue, but shaking hands is about having enough respect to agree to disagree on some points. I also remind people that agriculture is incredibly diverse; it takes more than just a farmer to get food to the plate. Connecting with the person beside you, such as farmer who chooses a different farming practice or a food scientist in the lab, can be just as valuable as reaching food buyers.
Q. Talking directly to people in animal agriculture – give us a half dozen ways we can engage our friends who are several generations away from the land? And maybe a half dozen ways not to go about it, too.
A. No More Food Fights! gives 6.5 steps to sharing the farm story: who, what, why, where, when, how and you. Each step is a chapter to provide a common sense plan that help readers figure out who they'd really like to focus on beyond the ag choir. Some will be more comfortable with school kids or media, while others will focus on elected officials. Answering the "what?" involves looking for your selected influencer group's hot button, which is a critical and often-missed step when ag is too worried about spewing science and research. I suggest the farm side of the plate back up and get to know what excites their influencer group - and understand not everyone's hot buttons revolve around farm or cattle.
The third step is "why?" and relating to those hot buttons through shared values to speak the same language. In my opinion, this is where agriculture has failed in the past. We try to talk farming with people who can't relate, rather than approaching them as humans. The "where", "when" and "how" chapters are simply about putting an action plan in place and determining where your community is. "You" is a chapter focusing on thought leadership for agriculture and putting individual passion for agriculture to work.