As we interact with our communities, especially when we are off the clock, we can be faced with difficult questions about the agriculture industry. Recognizing that ag retailers work in a space that may be challenging for some to understand, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) launched a new professional development program.
Presented by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) in partnership with Corteva, the ENGAGE for Ag Leaders program is a one-of-a-kind experience. This is not typical message training. The two-day work-shop centers on research and practical application. CFI has worked with its partners to survey consumers from all areas of the country who have varying backgrounds and levels of exposure to agriculture, and it uncovered that shared values open the door to more meaningful conversations.
At the inaugural session in Indianapolis, the opening keynote featured David Fikes from the Food Marketing Institute. Fikes presented consumer trend data focused on how consumers make their grocery purchasing decisions. The eye-opening report helped to set the stage for the sessions with CFI facilitator Roxi Beck.
“You have a unique opportunity to tell the story of today’s food and farming,” Beck said in the opening session. Building on this notion, she led the participants through exercises to identify the tough questions asked by friends, family and members of their respective communities, and attendees subsequently addressed how to handle the responses in effective and meaningful ways.
“Who you are is as important as what you know,” said Beck as she led participants through the exercises and urged participants to use their own values to relate to and understand the people asking the questions. Participants were shown the importance of finding the opportunity to relate to others through these shared values of parent-to-parent or traveler-to-traveler instead of using their professional titles as they interact in real-life scenarios.
“I wish I had an opportunity to take a training like this 20 years ago,” said Mary Hartney, president of Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association.
ARA plans to hold another ENGAGE for Ag Leaders session in March 2020.