Agriculture is an industry unlike any other. It has this power to ignite a passion in people from all walks of life. There’s something so personal about agriculture and something that connects with us on a deeper level than most industries. Social media has allowed agriculture to connect with people who are hundreds of miles away from farms and ranches. It allows the general public a firsthand look into the agriculture world.
Social media also connects people within the industry. Farmers and ranchers across the nation living miles away and with various methods of production forming friendships and relationships. The agriculture social media world is wonderful. I’ve met some amazing people who work in all facets of the industry. I’ve formed friends who are sure to be lifelong through social media. And most importantly, I met my future husband via social media and the agriculture industry.
There are a lot of positive things happening in Ag Social Media channels. Farmer’s messages reaching people across the nation, industry professionals taking a stand for agriculture, and slowly but surely it feels like farmer’s positive message is making a difference. But Ag social media can be its own worse enemy. Feeding into the frenzy that is agvocating and agtivism can be just as harmful as it can be helpful. Since its origins of the term, “agvocate” it’s definitely come a long way. Today, I would even venture to the extreme as to say, agvocate has now become a buzzword in some of our circles. And that sometimes the circles in the Ag social media world feel like junior high all over again.
With so many people joining the table that is agriculture and social media, being an “agvocate” has become like trying to shout over a crowd of people. With so many people using social media to talk about agriculture, we have created our own white noise. We’ve created our own “mob mentality” in agriculture. And sometimes it’s this mob mentality that can damage relationships within our own industry. Agriculture may seem like a large industry when you are immersed amongst it, but when you put the numbers to it, we only make up about 2 percent of the entire population. With so few of us from the general population, talking and engaging about agriculture, we really need to band together. How in the world do we expect consumers and customers to take us seriously if we can’t even get along within our own industry?
So how do we navigate the chaos? I, personally, learn from others. Others who have been in our shoes. Ones who have had the conversations we’ve had. Take a look at what they have to say and how they navigate the social media world. Some started off loud and quieted down. Some are somewhere in the middle. Some are new to the scene, some are long time veterans. But all have grown and will continue to grow.
I’ll leave you with a few great quotes from my favorite social media players regarding “agvocating”, “agvitism”, and navigating the white noise that has now become agriculture and social media.
However, to me, being an agvocate is a process and a journey, not a title that can be achieved. Agvocating is neither being offensive or defensive; it is an action that relies upon listening and learning…seeking understanding of others perspectives. Being an agvocate is being yourself, sharing personal experiences and emotions, forgetting about being ‘polished’ and speaking from the heart, not ‘talking points.’
Do I get the ‘pat on the back’ and ‘spotlight’ from the agricultural crowd like I used to…no.
Am I making new friends, having more conversations, getting more emails and phone calls from folks outside of agriculture that I have only met through social media…yes. – Jeff Fowle of Just Farmers
I believe that the Bible can teach us so many things about how to have effective relationships with people. We both must come to the table realizing that we are different parts of the same body. We need to show respect and humility on both sides. – – Carolyn Olson of Carolyn Cares
Loving our neighbors does not mean that we all have to think the same thing, shop at the same store, or belong to the same political party. We can have lively discussions, and still show love. We can disagree about how to manage our businesses, and still show love. The key is in our actions and our words. Weigh your words carefully before you post something online. Leave out the inflammatory adjectives that are there mostly for spite. Ask yourself, am I building up the people around me, or am I tearing them down? – Carolyn Olson of Carolyn Cares
“An agvocate is in your heart… I don’t believe its a thought or process IMO” – By beloved @sunflowerfarmer, my man of few, but powerful, words
And here’s some words of wisdom from yours truly:
” I know we’ve all heard the statistic that less than 2 percent of the population is involved production agriculture. So what does this have to do with your relationships..? Well, in the long run, we can afford to potentially damage a relationship amongst that 98 percent. But amongst that 2 percent, that percent that makes up people in your industry, relationships cannot afford to be damaged due to egos or personal agendas. Balancing your own personal identity and free-thinking ideals while still being able to maneuver through your industry is crucial. Building relationships with ag-related people is just as important as building relationships with non-ag related people.” – Are You Watering the Grass on Your Industry Relationships for Just Farmers
Keep being real, keep being honest, and keep sharing your story, your voice, your words my friends. There are great things coming for each and every one of us. It just takes believing in yourself and defining who you are, not who you aren’t. And sometimes forcing yourself to write posts you aren’t sure about and hitting that publish button! – Never Stop Sharing
So how do you stand out from the crowd? How do you reach beyond the white noise?
I know it’s been said over and over and over again. But it’s the truth. Just be yourself. Don’t try to be who you aren’t. This isn’t high school and we aren’t trying to “fit it”. Each and every one of us has a unique story. And there is room within this industry for each of us to tell our own story. Don’t feed into the frenzy. Think for yourself. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. Make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes. And become a better communicator because of it all.
Being an agvocate is not something that someone else defines for you. You define it for yourself. It’s your own personal journey through social media and agriculture. I really like Jeff’s comment about agvocating being a process, a learning process, where you grow and evolve. We start out with the fire and passion. Ready to take on the world. Full of ideals. But soon the reality hits and the real world sinks in. It’s not as shiny or as easy as we thought. But we don’t let that stop us from listening, sharing, and engaging. We grow, we evolve, and we become better through it all.
Agvocate: It’s not a title, it’s something that comes from the heart.
Are you simply engaging in “agvocating” to be heard or to form meaningful relationships? Or are you simply following the “mob” and their ideals? And most importantly, are you damaging relationships in our OWN industry through your “agvocating”?