A recent text message from a friend read:
“Facts about hormones in milk. Go.”
Now let’s make something clear. I did not grow up on a dairy farm. Far from anything like it! My knowledge about dairy comes from dairy science and food science classes in college. So I immediately began googling articles to send her and furiously typed multiple page long texts explaining BST and rBST while learning a bit along the way myself!
If you are like me, you may be the token “ag friend” (or family member) for many people in your life. This means you are the person they turn to with questions about agriculture because they know it’s “your thing.” Being this friend is a burden I’m proud to bear because I would so much rather my friends come to me with questions about agriculture (even if I don’t immediately know the answers!) than go to the many sources that don’t tell the whole story. So if you are the token ag friend of your group, here are some tips for survival and proper agvocacy.
Know where to turn for help
You aren’t going to know the answers to all the questions you get asked. Did farming cause the California drought? Is it more ecofriendly to drive my car than eat a steak? Do pigs really spend their entire lives in those crates where they are unable to move? Aren’t feedlots bad for the environment? I’ve been asked all of these questions and more! While I have the facts and figures to back them up now, I can truthfully tell you I did not know the whole story for all these questions when asked on the spot. However, knowing people and sources to turn to (like the ones listed at the bottom of this post!) have helped me tremendously!
Be a constant student of our industry
Agriculture is constantly changing and growing and solving problems. What could have been an issue a few years ago, may already be solved by technology, management changes, research or even policy. Stay involved in our industry and connected to what is going on and know where to find trusted sources of information.
Admit you don’t have all the answers
When someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to, admit that you don’t know. Maybe you aren’t familiar with that part of the industry and that’s okay. Agriculture is big, broad and diverse! Never make anything up and tell the person you’ll get back to them on their question.
Let your passion ignite other fires
Do not be afraid to speak passionately about your agriculture background and lifestyle. When others see the light in your eyes and deep love you have for what you do, it helps them connect with something that can be hard to understand. While your friends and family may not grasp the concept of hormones being used in beef production, they will totally get the passion in your voice when you talk about it.
Some people will come to you with questions and NOT like what you have to say and that’s okay
People will have different opinions than you and that is okay. Appreciate their beliefs and values and treat them the same way you want to be treated. Know that you aren’t going to convince every person who comes to you to become another advocate for our industry, but there will be many other people who enjoy learning from your farm life! So don’t be discouraged when someone doesn’t agree or doesn’t like your answer.
Always Tell The Truth
Never lie or be ashamed when someone asks a question. Tell the truth, be proud of our industry and explain why we do what we do. Not every part of farming is pretty, especially in animal agriculture. Explain the reason for why and how we do the things that need to be done.
Don’t immediately play defense
I know, you are used to being attacked, but that’s no reason to always be defensive. Instead of fiercely defending your livelihood when someone comes with a question, begin by being open, honest and transparent. It will work wonders.
Let Yourself Have a Little Laugh Afterwards
My mom is a school teacher with absolutely zero background in agriculture. Everything she has learned about modern ag production has been through myself, my sister, (and our experience in FFA) or the internet. However, she tries very hard to keep up with what we are talking about and is now a fierce advocate for agriculture. A few days ago I was on the phone with her when she started asking about IAing cattle. It took me a few seconds to realize she was talking about artificial insemination (AI). I didn’t laugh in the moment but had a good chuckle after we got off the phone. You’ll get questions that seem silly to you, and have a good laugh, but never make the person who asked feel bad because they didn’t know that steers can’t have babies or that it’s pronounced vEEgan not vehgan (yep that last one is another momism, she tries guys, I promise).
Are you the “ag friend” of your group? Tell us your struggles and advice for being the token ag friend in the comments!
Here’s a few of go-to resources when asked a question I don’t know the answer to. Feel free to share your own favorite resources in the comments!
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