Speaking Up to Address Myths about Ag

This was the title of the breakout session that I got to lead at the Iowa Farm Bureau Young Farmer Conference this past weekend.  Yes, that’s right, little ole me….speaking in front of a bunch of people!  Pure craziness, I tell ya!

This all came about a couple months ago when the conference organizer contacted me and asked me if I’d be willing.  I knew her from other Farm Bureau events. (Leadership training, young farmer events, and such.)  She was familiar with my blog and thought it would be good for the conference attendees to hear from a peer about what they can do about the maddening amount of misinformation that flies around out there.

Well, I was a little hesitant at first, because I had never done anything like that before.  But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like I had to share my story with these individuals.  It’s one thing to attend a conference and be inspired by a professional speaker, and it’s a whole other thing to hear from someone who is putting the rubber to the road while in the same position as the audience.  I decided I did have something to offer and accepted the challenge.

So, I threw together a presentation about myself, the actions I have taken to promote our farm to the consumer and address consumer myths and concerns, and recommendations for others who are looking to do the same.  And I practiced, and practiced, and practiced it! And then I tweaked it.  And then I practiced some more.  I practiced until I could think about doing the presentation without getting sweaty hands.

So on Friday morning, Justin and I packed up the kids and headed out for Des Moines.  This would be the fourth time we have attended the conference. We were excited to see old acquaintances and meet new ones, along with gaining new knowledge to take home to our farm and family.  Turns out it was the highest attendance the Iowa Farm Bureau has ever had at a Young Farmer Conference.  Over 300 individuals, many of them young families, were in attendance!

I must take a paragraph to say how much I enjoy the networking we get to do at these conferences.  We learn so much from the other attendees, we learn that many of our farming situations are different.  But, more often, we find that we have a lot in common when it comes to our concerns.  We always leave with a positive outlook on the future of agriculture and a reassurance that we are extremely blessed to be living in rural Iowa.

We got to enjoy presentations by Jolene Brown and Dr. David Kohl.  Both were excellent- entertaining and educational!  Dr. Kohl focused on economic concerns and risk management.   Jolene’s presentations centered more on family business issues and personal relationships.  Both of them had timely, pertinent presentations that addressed many concerns we have as young farmers.

The conference is family friendly, takes place at a nice hotel, and provides child care for the kiddos during the speakers.  Conference attendees have a chance to participate in a discussion meet and have their communication skills judged.  It is a competitive event, and can result in the winning of a John Deere riding lawn mower!  There were door prizes, friendly competitions, and of course, good meals!

Ok, so back to my breakout session.  It went very well,  approximately 20 people attended, which was a nice number as we were able to stay pretty informal.   I didn’t pass out from nervousness, and actually had a pretty good time.  I probably learned as much as (I hope) the people in attendance did!

I encouraged them to share some of the myths and frustrations they had.  Some of the big frustrations were with the portrayal of farmers as rich and greedy, as well as uncaring about the environment.  I provided them with some good examples of “ag-vocacy” — both online and offline.  I encouraged them to remain positive, proactive, and confident in their dealings.  Finally, I admitted that the results of their impact may be hard to measure, but over time, they will see them if they have a clear plan with specific goals.

We had a great conversation, and I hope that I lit a spark within at least a few of them! If you’d like to see my slides (which may or may not make much sense), they are here: https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AaPUGsCKn-RwZGhoczdoN3RfMGNtZDY0ZmNz&hl=en

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3 responses to this post.

  1. I’m bummed that I missed this. I didn’t know anything about the conference. Probably because I never read my spokesman or the emails they send me, huh?

    I’d really like to see the webinar on farm management, but I can’t seem to get that to work, either!

    • Ah shoot Katie! Contact your county farm bureau office, give them your name, and tell them you want to be informed about future young farmer events. Chances are they will be more than happy to help you out. 🙂

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liz Nieman, AgBlogFeed. AgBlogFeed said: #agchat Speaking Up to Address Myths about Ag http://bit.ly/fB3run /by @farmwifeforlife […]

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