I recently had the honour and privilege of being invited to attend GrowCanada 2014 Conference in Ottawa, Ontario with my farmer. This is CropLife Canada‘s annual conference that hosted over 500 delegates from various sectors in agriculture. Everyone from farmers to bloggers like me to the CEOs and presidents of major agriculture companies and lots of Members of Parliament…and even the Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz was there on the first evening of the conference!
My favourite session was titled “Turning the challenge of educating the consumer into an opportunity“. The speakers were Sherry MacLauchlan, the director of government affairs and sustainability for McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada, Kate Hall, the manager and managing director for the Council for Biotechnology Information, U.S. and Bruce Anderson, the chairman for Abacus Data and partner i2 Ideas and Issues Advertising. I was nodding and writing down notes and tweeting like crazy to try to take it all in. They, and other speakers, had such amazing points about educating the consumer, that I wanted to compile them into things I’ve learned about advocating for agriculture.
- Engage and lead conversations with something personal, not with a study or science.
- There are people in the middle that can be swayed: don’t let the ~10% activists deter you.
- Help educate to make informed choices; don’t tell them they’re making bad choices: informing isn’t about preaching, it’s about transparency and honesty.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and own the truth.
- Use emotive storytelling and images: just like the activists do, but in a positive way.
- Tone = trust: when addressing consumer anxieties, tone is very important.
- Sometimes defense is necessary.
- Consumers want to know your “farm to food” story.
- Don’t let others tell your story, address the myths.
- Don’t forget where we have come from, don’t lose track of how we got here: how technology has greatly helped all farmers.
These are not rules, this is not advice (but you can certainly take from these points as you’d like) rather these are points that really hit home with me. I will use these 10 things to go forward with how I attempt to educate consumers about modern agriculture practices and sharing our farming story.