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Guest column-Laurie Johns

By Staff | Feb 15, 2013

“Days are long in farming, but these farmers make time to share their story.” —Laurie Johns Iowa Farm Bureau public relations manager

When I was a reporter, I found that half the farmers I met would rather go out and dig post holes, than go on-camera and do an interview. I’m glad to see that mindset changing.

We have more than 100 Iowa farmers in our Iowa Farm Bureau Speaker Corps who are ready to share their perspectives, do interviews and engage the public and their communities. There are many examples of this: Justin and Jennifer Dammann, who have not only shared their perspective and their family time with Iowa radio, newspaper and TV reporters, they even hosted a German TV crew on their Essex cattle farm during the height of the drought in August.

Another great ‘ag-vocate’ is longtime cattle farmer Bill Couser from Nevada, who shares his story with Iowa, national and international media as well as leaders from around the globe. Larry Sailer, a Franklin County hog farmer, engages thousands of consumers through Facebook and Twitter, and has even welcomed strangers to his farm for a ‘blogger tour.’

The days are long in farming, but these farmers and so many others always make time to share their story, do a media interview, host a farm tour; these activities are the ‘rocket fuel’ of motivation that keeps them going and keeps the positive stories of farming and food production circling the globe.

These farmers aren’t just preaching to the choir and doing the ‘easy’ interviews with ag reporters who understand them and will always work to put them in the best light. They are talking to national reporters, young men and women who’ve never been on a farm, whose stories will shape opinions on food production for millions. Do some of these reporters have agendas? You bet. But, as Mark Kelly would tell us, there is nothing to be gained by always doing what is safe; what is expected; what is easy.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the hard interviews. Getting out ahead of the message, understanding the factors that bring change, reading the trends, embracing innovation, is always something farmers have done.

There is a huge hunger for our perspective. Failure to communicate, in this day and age, is not an option.

Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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