Wednesday, September 3, 2014

1-2-3 It Just Takes Me

Carnival rides, animals, people, an endless supply of food on a stick, and of course, the fireworks lighting up the sky each night are some of the very best part of the Great Minnesota Get Together, otherwise known as the Minnesota State Fair.
1,824,830 people visited the Minnesota State Fair this year. Almost two million people and each of them all have one thing in common: agriculture. Agriculture surrounds each individual and the choices they make everyday. And whether you are an FFA member, parent, friend or alumni member, agriculture is a huge part of your life. From the clothes we wear, to the medicine our moms give us when we are sick, to the the cereal in our bowls, agriculture plays a huge role. Makes sense, right?

For farmers it is easy to see this huge impact agriculture has on all people because it is their way of life. But for the general public it is more difficult because only two percent of the United States’ population lives on a farm or ranch. That leaves 98 percent of Americans who are not fully emerged in agriculture. 1,824,830 people visited the Minnesota State Fair who all had a different background and understanding of agriculture.  

31 barnyard technicians, 10 vets, 100 vet students, 16 staff members and 14 Minnesota State Officers and Region Presidents helped to show over one million people what agriculture looked like when these fair-goers visited the CHS Miracle of Birth Center. This is a awesome opportunity to start the conversation about agriculture with as many people as possible.
While working in the Leadership Center and Chapter House, I walked up to a woman helping her children with the Agriculture Explorer Badge. First, I asked how her day at the fair was and our conversation continued from that one small question. As she responded, I noticed she was wearing some rocking sandals. In the next few minutes, we found ourselves in conversation about her shoes, where she got them and what kind of shoes each of us prefer. It was a genuine conversation about a topic that both of us were interested in. But we didn’t talk about shoes forever. As this woman with the great shoes sat at the children’s size picnic table watching her children, we had a great conversation about agriculture and why diversity, education and advocacy is so important. We talked about conventional and organic food, the lack of agricultural education in urban schools, and what FFA does for students. Although I may have been able to explain questions she had about agriculture, she also showed me a new perspective on agricultural issues. But wait… this all started with just one pair shoes. How did this happen?

1. I found a topic both of us enjoyed, shoes, and opened this topic up for discussion.
2. I related this topic to agriculture and let her know I wanted to hear her opinion and point of view first.
3. I asked questions and truly listened to what she was saying.

Three simple steps to a great conversation about agriculture that started with one pair of shoes.

Whether you know it or not, you are an advocate for agriculture because agriculture surrounds each one of us. Whether you aspire to create an Urban Ag in the Classroom day, a PALS program or are simply seeking out people to have conversations with in the grocery store, while walking down the street, or on social media, take these opportunities to TALK and LISTEN about agriculture. It doesn’t take a huge, intricate plan to be an advocate. It does, however, take a passion for agriculture and a genuine conversation.

For Rhonda Ross, magic is something her and her audience have in common and she uses magic in her Thank a Farmer Magic Show to draw people in and then educate them about agriculture while giving them a great show. For me, shoes were a great way to begin a simple, genuine conversation about such an important topic.

Try out the three simple steps on a family member or friend and begin to develop your own way of opening up the conversation about agriculture. Whether you are a farmer, FFA member, parent or live in the middle of a huge city, agriculture will continue to play a huge role in your life and the lives of everyone around us. Together let’s stop informing about agriculture but instead start the conversation about agriculture.

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Valerie Earley

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