From the Field: Agriculture’s Message in a Sound Bite Culture

From the Field is a bi-monthly column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.

For several years the agriculture community has worked on educating the general public about the production of food and fiber. This educational effort has received an increased emphasis from agribusinesses, food retailers, commodity groups, and agriculture organizations in the past two decades, but especially the most recent decade. The Internet and social media have facilitated the ability of anyone to put out information, pictures, and videos to the world in a matter of minutes.

Through social media, the information expands to readers and viewers exponentially. Information is great, but the crux of it is how to decipher the legitimate information from rumors, myths, or just plain made-up information. I am happy to say that many people in our community have really stepped up to the challenge of being an agriculture advocate.

So how do we get our message out amongst all of the other messages out there, and how do we counter misinformation that can be easily believable to a public that has much to learn about agriculture? The good news is that I believe the public is more informed about agriculture than they used to be. We have great advocates for agriculture that are doing a great job. Being an effective advocate means reaching outside of our community, being genuine, trustworthy, and transparent, and relatable. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance has developed methods to help agriculturalists work on these things. I’m not saying that we are not trustworthy, genuine, or transparent; we have just had a hard time expressing it. We must remember that we are one of the steps in getting food on the plate. People want to know where their food comes from and how it was raised. So if you think of yourself as a food producer; it gives you a different perspective.

This year, two agricultural messages on video have created quite a buzz. One is a YouTube video called “I’m Farming and I Grow It.” Check it out below. It has had over 7 million views. It’s not chocked full of statistics, but it is entertaining. It puts a personal face to people in agriculture, and it is relatable to people. We often are uncomfortable talking to a nonagricultural audience. Well, nonfarmers aren’t sure how to relate to us either. Sharing your personal story helps both groups understand each other.

The other video is done by Dr. Temple Grandin and the American Meat Institute. The video can be found at http://www.animalhandling.org under the “video” link. Temple Grandin’s video is a transparent and factual view of how cattle are humanely treated at a large beef packing plant. Temple Grandin has credibility, and her message is accepted as legitimate among nonagricultural people. I think people see her as an unbiased authority on animal welfare, and she is the world’s most prominent authority on the subject. In the video, she comments about all of the false stuff on the Internet about animal welfare, and the lack of factual and accurate information. The video may be too graphic for some. But I hope the video done by the world’s most prominent authority on animal welfare will dispel some misinformation and misconceived thoughts of people about animal welfare in meat packing plants, even those in the agriculture community. I have attended a couple of presentations of Temple Grandin and they have always been very informative. She doesn’t mince words and means what she says. Her Autism helps her think and see in pictures. This unique perspective and ability has helped the livestock community immensely. She has designed livestock handling facilities such as corrals, unloading docks, packing plant designs, etc. to create the best environment for animals and people. Several agribusinesses, ranches, and feedyards have used her services, and some have redesigned their whole operation.

One message that Grandin had two years ago still sticks in my mind as baffling, but it was true. She said that she was speaking at a college class about animal welfare and the topic of grass fed beef vs. conventional beef came up. She said that the college students actually thought that conventional fed cattle spent their entire life in a feedyard. They thought that the cow lived in the feedyard, had her calf there and the calf lived the remainder of its life in the feedyard. She quickly corrected them by saying that ultimately all cattle are grass fed. They are ruminants. Cattle that do get fed in a feedyard are typically there for only 150 days of their life. All of the other time, they were on grass. This information blew their minds. What we may take for granted as being commonly known information might surprise us that the general public may have a different idea.

If you have a specialty, share it with the world. For example, the beef industry is my main interest. I completed a Masters of Beef Advocacy curriculum two years ago. I can speak on beef cattle and beef as it relates to the environment, nutrition, feeding practices, antibiotics, or animal welfare. Feel free to contact me with questions at mark.campbell@vafb.com.

So don’t be afraid to share your messages about agriculture. You don’t have to have a big presentation or do a lot of research. Just share what you do as your part in putting safe, wholesome, and nutritious food on the plate of so many people. Your message might just be the sound bite that someone needed to hear. With today’s technology, your testimony may reach more people than you ever imagined.

Until next time,
Mark

From the Field: Farm Bureau staff and volunteers cover a lot of ground on eminent domain campaign

From the Field is a bi-monthly column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.

Virginia Farm Bureau’s campaign in support of a constitutional amendment on eminent domain is in full swing mode. Farm Bureau staff and volunteers have been using every opportunity available to inform members, the agriculture community, and general public about the eminent domain constitutional amendment and the importance of voting yes on question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot. Things really picked up the first of August. The volunteers are pumped up about promoting this.

The Field Services and Governmental Relations staff have been promoting all of the available promotional and educational tools available to county Farm Bureaus, and the county Farm Bureaus have acted quickly in ordering supplies. There are a lot of events happening around the state now, and even more will be taking place going into the fall season. Farm Bureau is utilizing all of these venues to get the message out to the public.

Just to give you an idea of how many people we have reached from August 1-20; I surveyed our Field Staff about events and meetings were the campaign has been presented. The message has reached approximately 5,405 people at events such as county Farm Bureau annual meetings, county fairs, Virginia Ag Expo, field days, and meetings with county supervisors. This is only in three weeks. The message will reach even more people as we approach Election Day.

We have had a clear and concise message that is resonating with people. I am sure that those that have heard about the campaign will tell their friends and neighbors to support it with a Yes vote. The campaign signs arrived in county Farm Bureau offices this month. In some counties, signs have already been distributed to members.

So plan to hear and see more about the eminent domain constitutional amendment, and don’t be shy about spreading the message to your circle of friends and family. Also, don’t hesitate to ask them to join Farm Bureau, an organization that has done a tremendous amount on protecting private property rights.

Until next time,

Mark

From the Field: Introducing Mark Campbell

Welcome to the new column, “From the Field.” My name is Mark Campbell, and I am the Senior District Field Services Director for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation in the central part of the state. I will be sharing Farm Bureau activities and events throughout the state and other agricultural information and interesting stories, as well as my love for all things agriculture. “From The Field” will be posted here every other Wednesday.

I work out of and live in Nelson County—one of the most beautiful areas of the state! My wife, Dana, our two sons Hayden (9) and Daniel (7) and I live on our family farm, Deer Creek Farm, where I was raised. The rolling and sometimes mountainous terrain of Nelson County is best suited to cattle and sheep and fruit trees. While we do not have fruit trees on our farm, Nelson County is a leader in production of fresh apples and peaches. Nelson is also a high ranking county for vineyards and wineries. Another business that has really taken off in Nelson County is micro-breweries. The county also has a large wholesale nursery. There’s a lot more about Nelson County, click here http://www.nelsoncounty.com/

When I am not working for Farm Bureau, I enjoy working on our farm raising registered Simmental and SimAngus cattle. We sell bulls and replacement heifers to other cattlemen. We send the steers and cull heifers through the Virginia Retained Ownership Program, administered by Virginia Tech in coordination with Iowa State University. The cattle are fed at several participating feedyards in southwest Iowa near the Nebraska border, and are harvested in Iowa. In addition to the cattle, the only crops we raise are grass and trees. Over the years, I have installed several conservation projects with cattle water tanks and implemented a rotational grazing program.

Oh, by the way, we have a small flock of commercial sheep and one Italian Maremma guard dog. That is our new project and I am still working, and sometimes get frustrated trying to integrate them into our cattle system.

My sons are just now getting old enough to start showing cattle at some shows. They really enjoy it and are gaining knowledge about genetics, nutrition and animal care. They are also at that age where they tell everyone they know about everything they know. You know what I mean–some things you wished they didn’t share! Oh well, that makes it real and genuine. So they are doing a great job of being advocates for agriculture. They have a real passion for agriculture.

I thoroughly enjoy being involved in agriculture. It has always been a part of my life. I am an alumnus of Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. I was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho, Block and Bridle, and was on the Livestock Judging Team. After college, I worked four years with USDA Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) in the Packers and Stockyards Administration division. After that, I started with Virginia Farm Bureau in the northern field district, and then transferred to my current district in central Virginia. My Farm Bureau career has presented me the opportunity to work with 21 county Farm Bureaus and lots of wonderful people over the past 14 years.

My job as District Field Services Director (DFSD) allows me the opportunity to interact with over 100 producer members and assist 10 county Farm Bureaus on a monthly basis who are involved in all facets of agriculture. In central Virginia, we have a wide assortment of agriculture products such as beef cattle, apples, peaches, corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, vegetables, nurseries, tobacco, vineyards, dairy, horses, sheep, goats, hay, timber, poultry, hogs, honey, and even rabbits. I may have missed a few, but you get the picture.

As a DFSD, I am a liaison between Virginia Farm Bureau and 10 county Farm Bureaus. DFSDs work closely with county Farm Bureaus and Virginia Farm Bureau to strengthen the Farm Bureau organization, improve the agriculture industry, promote agriculture, monitor legislation and contact our elected legislators, and help develop future agriculture leaders. In other words, we do whatever we can through Farm Bureau to make things better in the agriculture community.

I am pretty much in agriculture mode all of the time with a few exceptions. And even then, agriculture always finds a way in. The boys and I like model railroading. We are working on a new layout with grain, cattle, and corn ethanol set in Nebraska. We plan to have two trains; one with hopper cars for the grain, and one with tanker cars for the ethanol. Go figure! Agriculture. It’s a way of life.

My next post will be about a successful member benefit that Louisa County Farm Bureau offers to their producer members. Thanks for reading and doing all that you do for Farm Bureau and Virginia agriculture.

Mark