Coming to Washington D.C. to advocate or lobby on behalf of a cause can be fun but it can also be frustrating. Recently a group of students from ag programs across the country met in Maryland at the National 4-H Conference Center to get training before storming the hill.
"Hi, my name is Madelyn," is how Madelyn Regier of South Dakota State University introduced herself during a mock session. "I'm here representing Agriculture Future of America."
Students and leaders from different orgs including Agriculture Future of America, FFA, 4-H and MANRRS, in different states joined together to practice their perfect pitch. The goal is learning to be an advocate for agriculture.
"We learned how to go about holding these kinds of conversations and how to keep legislators on topic," says Regier.
Part of that training includes finding a way to relate their story to the listener.
"I learned that you have to figure out what they're passionate about and what their story is and [it's about] really connecting that with your personal story," says Irene Lewis of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "We're seeing how we can advocate not for just agriculture but for the greater good of our country."
She's in Washington D.C. on behalf of the MANRRS program. For her and others, advocating for ag is a new found passion.
"I come from a background that has really nothing to do with agriculture," says Lewis. "When I was exposed to it around tenth or eleventh grade, that's when I realized how big this industry is and how many opportunities are available."
Learning to talk the talk is just the start of the training for these future ambassadors.
"I didn't actually grow up in an agricultural background," says Gabe Doherty of Farmington, New Mexico. "I want to gain as much information as I can before I go out into the field, whether that be as an ag teacher or a 4-H agent and actually use information from the industry to teach in the classroom and to help out agricultural producers."
These are lessons and experiences helping shape both current and future leaders.
"This is my first time but I think that this will be a good experience to just get out there and practice it a couple of times," says Regier. Then, hopefully, I'll continue to do this in the future as a career."