Call me weird, but I love spring cleaning. Over the weekend, I cleaned out and organized everything from my closets to my kitchen cupboards. We picked up sticks in the yard, burned off the dead brush in the garden, and even had the steel man come out and haul off 18 tons of old junk machinery and odds and ends we no longer needed around the place.
I have found with projects like this that the hardest part is just getting started. The same can be said for agricultural advocacy. Social media has become the new platform for getting the word out and lighting a spark to create change, and it’s easy to do.
Remember when 2010 BEEF Trailblazer Troy Hadrick boycotted Yellow Tail wine after the Australian winemaker donated money to the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS)? Off the cuff, he created a video in his farmyard and posted it on YouTube. The video was viewed around the world. It was a few days later that Yellow Tail owners announced they would no longer donate money to HSUS.
My first round of advocacy started with a Facebook group, challenging kids to walk out of the Carrie Underwood concert at the National FFA Convention in 2006. That was after the country-western singer came out publicly against animal agriculture during her American Idol tour.
Bloggers have been able to discuss hot topics and introduce ranchers to the world. Check out Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, and you’ll see what I mean. She writes about everything from grilling the perfect steak to shipping steers, and her best-selling cookbooks, cooking show, romance novel and children's book prove she has got this advocacy thing down.
Ranchers are also showing a strong presence on Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and Google+ (by the way, BEEF just got G+. Join our circle!). Whatever the channel, I can count on producers participating, and it’s impressive to see. Without a doubt, social media has enabled producers to join the conversation from their remote locations on the ranch. However, Rebekah Kuschmider, a blogger at The Broad Side, says that social media isn’t truly activism. She warns folks that social media can’t replace face-to-face conversations. This definitely applies to agriculture.
Kuschmider writes, “If you really want to be an agent of change, you need to get off the Internet and get in the room. What room am I talking about? Any room with a decision maker in it. It might be an office on Capitol Hill, it might be a community forum, it might be a fundraiser that you pay to get into.
“And decision makers can be legislators, corporate leaders, staff of a government agency, or the principal of your local school. These are people who are supposed to give ear to the voices of the people they serve. They are not required to go trolling Twitter to find what those voices have to say.
" You have to break through the static of Internet noise and get your message across clearly and individually. Make sure you’re using a direct conduit to your decision maker, not just shouting into the online wind and hoping that the right person happens to overhear.
"You have to do the outreach if you want to be heard. Take your message to the right rooms and say it loud and clear. Put the active back in activist,” Kuschmider says.
She definitely has a point. Just like spring cleaning, we can sit around and talk about it all day, or we can put on our work gloves and get to it. So, whether it’s putting on your Team Beef jersey and running a 5K, helping serve ribeye steaks to the troops at a steak feed with the All-American Beef Battalion, reading a fun farm book to elementary students in schools, inviting a member of the media for a tour of your place, or lobbying for an issue that’s important to you, there are countless ways we can step outside of our comfort zones -- on the ranch or in front of a computer -- and be active advocates for agriculture.
At the end of the day, we have to quit talking about it and just get started.
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How are you an advocate for agriculture in your daily life? Share your favorite social media tools, as well as ways you get involved in your community, in the comments section below.