PINKE: 'Listen to the concerns'

WISHEK, N.D. -- As you harvest the bounty of your labor, do you ever think about the crop's journey beyond your field? It's been a passion of mine for a decade to monitor public perception of agriculture, engage non-ag consumers and tell my story...

Photo submitted by Katie Pinke

WISHEK, N.D. - As you harvest the bounty of your labor, do you ever think about the crop’s journey beyond your field? It’s been a passion of mine for a decade to monitor public perception of agriculture, engage non-ag consumers and tell my story of agriculture. That’s not always the case for some farmers and ranchers who say advocating for ag is for younger people.

Sharing what you do and why you do it is for all of us in agriculture. Why? Because production agriculture is a tiny slice of America, less than 2 percent, and the public is craving to know farmers and ranchers, and how their food is raised.

Ultimately, the food buyers - not just in the U.S. but abroad - are one of many “bosses” in agriculture.

I spoke on a “Meet Your New Boss” panel recently at an Agcatalyst conference in Minneapolis. Attendees varied from college of agriculture students to large agribusiness and food company executives. Earlier this fall, far from a big city, I spoke in Hettinger, N.D., at a public perceptions and livestock industry training session, hosted by the North Dakota State University Livestock and Environmental Stewardship.

It’s motivating and encouraging to see people from the grassroots farmer and rancher level to the corporate agribusiness level sharing their stories with consumers. Despite the frustrations, there has been success building trust and valued relationships to bridge non-ag consumer groups to agriculture.


On the “Meet Your New Boss” panel, I was seated next to Elen, a blogger/teacher/mother of three from the Minneapolis area. She doesn’t have any farm connections but she has food concerns. She desires to feed her family in the healthiest way possible. She trusts peers, recipe creators, food magazines and blogs, and her perception of food changes with trends.

On the other side of me was Marytina, a farmer and mom of four who lives 50 miles north of Minneapolis. Marytina’s family shows cattle throughout the summer.

I drove the 375 miles home from the conference thinking, even if none of the attendees took away anything from the panel, I hope Elen and her kids get to visit Marytina and her kids on their farm, and develop a connection.

With the season of family gatherings upon us, think about how you can tell about your role in agriculture with your non-ag family and friends when you share a meal together. Food issues and trends don’t need to lead to arguments over Thanksgiving dinner. But, you can express your gratitude for the bounty and give a brief farm or ranch tour after a Thanksgiving nap.

You don’t have to be a blogger or social media maven to engage and influence public perception about modern-day agriculture. Start small and simple, close to home. Meet your new boss with the same openness and transparency found between you and your family on the farm or ranch.

While we’re fiercely independent in agriculture, and the term “boss” makes the hair on the back of our necks rise, non-ag consumers impact food choices and policy. We should consider them a boss among many in agriculture.

We can dig in our heels and be frustrated, or we can evolve and look at this challenge as the greatest food and agriculture opportunity of our generation. We have access to new communication channels and methods to share our stories, no matter our locations and an audience who wants to know. I feel like I’ve been preaching this gospel for many years, but the need for agriculture advocacy is not going away. It has to grow with each generation to give a voice to a minority population that grows our food.

Don’t shy away from the issues. Listen to the concerns. Prepare for the questions. Simply share how you raise your crops and livestock, but don’t bring up how your farming neighbor might do things differently.


It’s the season to listen, share and give. Seize the opportunity in agriculture.

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