By Mike Spieker Nowadays there are many challenges at the hands of the agriculture industry. Perhaps one of the most difficult issues it has to overcome has been the negative public perception of agriculture over the last several years. From anti-pesticide campaigns to non-GMO movements, the conception of the American farmer is rapidly deteriorating. As more and more people become urbanized, the disconnection between themselves and agriculture has increased, which only makes the problem worse.
However, two girls from North Dakota have teamed up to create a blog site where they share factual agricultural stories with the goal of educating as many people as possible about the truth behind ag. Reilee and Megan had similar upbringings before they met in college at North Dakota State University. Reilee grew up on a farm just north of Mapleton, N.D., about 15 miles west of Fargo. After graduating from high school, it seemed as though a career in ag was the last thing on Reilee’s mind. "I definitely didn’t want anything to do with farming or agriculture out of high school, or so I thought" she said. "I hated living in the country. I went to major in business when I got to college and then I realized that these were not my people. I switched to ag business and it was a wake up call. I was like, ‘This is where I belong.’" "We have almost the same exact story," added Megan. "I grew up on the farm, didn’t want to have anything to do with it, was involved but didn’t really care to learn much about it, but when I got to college I switched my major about three times. My entire family was encouraging me to go into something in ag and I dug my heels in and was being a stubborn 18 year old. Finally, I sat in on an ag class and I realized I really like this. This feels like home." Reilee and Megan found their passion to talk about agriculture through a fellowship program. From there the idea was sparked to start a blog to promote agriculture in a positive light. "We were both sick of annoying all of our friends on Facebook by sharing a whole bunch of articles. We needed somewhere to put all of this stuff we like to talk about," said Megan. The goal for Reilee and Megan with the blog was to help others learn about agriculture by learning about various ag-related topics themselves. "Most importantly we would like to combat common misconceptions," said Megan. "Once we started getting more involved in ag, we started seeing all the crazy things people are saying about farm families like ours. I just felt like we needed to do something and have a voice." The Red River Valley Girls blog stemmed from a post on Facebook Reilee put on last spring. It was a simple picture of her holding two cuts of beef. One of them was titled organic beef, while the other was non-organic. Along with the difference in price, Reilee also included that all livestock must be antibiotic free for a period of time before they are sold to market. Because of that law both of these meats are the same and no traces of antibiotics can be found in the "non-organic" beef. "It went viral," said Megan. After close to 15,000 total impressions between likes, comments, and shares within a week, Reilee and Megan quickly realized that this is something they can do and a topic people want to learn about. Since launching the blog in September of 2016, the Red River Valley Girls have quickly gained a sizable following across all social media platforms because of the variety of topics they cover and their overall relatableness. Their fun, witty writing makes learning about ag enjoyable, even if one doesn’t have a background or much knowledge about the subject matter. "The way we write is kind of just how we would talk to our friends," said Megan. "So we are trying to target young women who are in college or just starting their careers, kind of like us. But on the other hand, one of my dad’s 60-year-old friend’s says he really enjoys the way we write so maybe we are relatable to other demographics, too." "We try to make it fun to read, rather than just traditional fact-based writing," joined Reilee. "We want to keep our posts to a minimum and keep them interesting so they’re not super long. Most importantly, we don’t want to put out anything that is false. If we post something, it’s true. We are just trying to be as relatable as possible. Just like agriculture, we don’t hide anything." A few months back, Megan took a tour of the Minn-Dak factory and was able to see how sugar was processed from start to finish. "Following a commodity from practically when it comes off the truck to what it looks like in the grocery store, for anybody, would be really beneficial because you don’t get that opportunity very often," she said. "Walking along with the beets the whole way and at the very end getting to sample the warm, fresh sugar was very cool. I wish we could do that with more commodities. I think people would be more accepting and understanding if they would see where exactly their food comes from." "I don’t think people make that connection between the grocery store and the farmer," said Reilee. "That’s what we are trying to do, is bridge that gap." It’s no secret that the world of agriculture is under fire for its practices or management methods, but thanks to the time and effort put in by agvocates like Reilee and Megan, people will hopefully become more informed about farming and the food they are eating.