It’s time to engage
By KRISS NELSON
DES MOINES – In addition to hundreds of vendors and swine shows, the World Pork Expo is known for a plethora of informative seminars featuring the latest on pork production and insights on the industry.
Learning how to win the battle of misinformation within the agricultural industry was the topic of a session presented by Carla Wardin, United States Farmer and Rancher Alliance (USFRA) communications specialist and Michigan dairy farmer.
“Can we win the battle over misinformation? I say yes,” said Wardin. “Where is the farmer and rancher voice in these conversations? Through all of us talking and through farmers and ranchers talking we are able to amplify our voice and talk to consumers. It’s like a direct line.”
It is those direct lines, available through social media, that allow producers to skip through the middle man and talk directly to consumers to let them know how their food is being produced. According to Wardin, this helps bridge the misinformation gap.
“Our consumers, they don’t have any control over what it is being made,” she said. “They don’t know for sure about a lot of it. They don’t even know, a lot of times, what questions to ask. People have an interest and when they do, you want to foster that. You want to be able to reach out to them and let them know what is going on.”
When speaking to consumers, whatever opinion you have, Wardin said to make sure to know the facts that are behind that opinion.
“As long as you are informed and you have the facts, then you can make the best decisions,” she said.
Treatment of animals, buying local, antibiotic use and GMOs are all common issues consumers have about their food and how it is being raised. But in the end, consumers seem to trust growers.
“As a whole, consumers feel favorable to farmers and ranchers, but they question their practices,” she said. “They have the resources. They have the mouth piece and they want things in the way they want them.”
“I think we all need to work on speaking with people who are not in our industry. We’re able to take this voice and yell. Make it loud and reach more people.”
One way the USFRA is assisting producers in getting their voices heard is through an app called “engAGe.”
“There are only 4,000 to 5,000 agriculturalists on social media that post three or more times a month about food- and ag-related issues and only 10 percent of those post three or more times a week,” said Wardin. “Obviously, we are busy doing other things. There are more consumers than there are farmers and it always going to be that way. We are lucky to have all of our advocates. All of the people that are in the industry helping us with that.”
But more is needed.
USFRA encourages farmers, ranchers and anyone passionate about agriculture to advocate for modern farming and sustainability practices through the engAGe app. According to the USFRA, the new digital and social media app provides farmers and ranchers with the tools and resources necessary to communicate directly with consumers about today’s agriculture. Through engAGe, users can easily share articles, infographics, images and videos on their social media channels to highlight how their farmers and ranchers are utilizing technology to continue to improve.
“What we are trying to do with engAGe is use it as a communications tool to help us keep up with the current agricultural news landscape,” said Wardin.
Much like other apps that provide updates on news, sports, etc., engAGe also provides updates but also allows stories to be shared to all social media accounts at the same time.
“But you can amplify that,” Wardin said. “It’s a way to make it go to a larger audience. It’s not just farmers talking to farmers. It’s not just people in agriculture talking to people in agriculture. We are really reaching the consumer.”
To help farmers and ranchers activate their voice on social media, the engAGe app provides users with multiple features.
- News feed. Members stay informed of current events and agriculture news through relevant articles in their news feed.
- Notifications. Members receive notifications about important events and news stories in real time.
- Content. Members can share articles, infographics, images or videos about modern agriculture on their social media channels.
- Sharing. Members can share engAGe posts to their social media accounts by the push of a button.
- Community. Members can submit content, from agriculture and industry news to their own farming and sustainability practices, for other engAGe community members to share on social media.
Wardin said the app is user friendly, offering both features for beginners and pros. Regardless of experience level, it’s helping to get a voice heard.
“The message is extended beyond friends and family, and again, it’s interesting because there are some people that aren’t from a farm, have never seen a farm and will never see a farm,” she said. “This is a way of giving people news for all of our different commodities. All of our different interests in one way.”
Wardin said it just takes five to 10 minutes a day to join the dialogue on social media.
“It’s not easy to find those five to 10 minutes a day, but there’s someone on your farm who will have that time, even once a week, at some point, to be able to take what we are doing and bring that message to the larger population,” she said.
Downloading the engAGe app through a smartphone is done by:
– Download Dynamic Signal from the iTunes or Google Play Store.
– Enter the community code: ENGAGE.
For more information on how to down load and use engAGe, visit FoodDialogues.com/engage.
“In the industry, we are defending what we do every day, but what I think what is really encouraging is that people in farming are going to work harder than anyone else,” Wardin said. “They are always going to work hard. They never get too tired to work and when everyone else becomes concerned with other things, farmers are still going to be taking care of animals, still taking care of the land. They’re still going to be working hard and this app and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance is a way of getting that message across and communicating with people more easily.”
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