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♦ Lessons Learned Through Advocacy
♦ Lessons Learned Through Advocacy

Ryan Goodman, Director, Grassroots Advocacy & Spokesperson Development, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff

Are you an advocate for agriculture?

If you are involved in any aspect of our community, from producer to allied industry or retailer, you should be able to answer this question with a resounding 'Yes!' In one way or another, good or bad, we all advocate for agriculture through how we represent our business toward others.

Agriculture advocacy can often be associated with social media or youth initiatives, but this is an action that has implications on all our ability to continue doing business. As consumers speak up about their concerns, they are influencing our markets and way of life. These changes often are sought through policy, purchase decisions and social pressure on retailers and restaurants.

As agriculture advocates, and as a minority of the population, we have a responsibility to utilize our strengths and advocate through our own means - be it on social media or in our local communities. Advocacy makes good sense for social interactions just as it does for good business planning.

During the past decade, I have encountered many unique experiences with customers through advocacy. People are asking questions and expressing concerns because they want to know more about where our food comes from and how it is raised.

These concerns are often rooted in emotion because food is a very personal subject for most individuals. We all feed our children and fuel our bodies through the food we consume. We want to make sure it is safe for us, the animals involved and the environment we depend upon to live.

When agriculture advocates respond to these emotional concerns with facts and science, that response often misses the mark. This is the point where conversations often end or become heated.

Connecting on a personal level is important when responding to these emotional concerns before leading with facts and science. We must speak the same language. This includes the need to provide a foundation and context for better understanding for both parties involved.

A few tips to help further these conversations include being able to:

> Listen respectfully with the intent to understand
> Respect one another's views, even if you disagree
> Criticize ideas, not individuals
> Commit to learning, not debating
> Avoid blame and speculation
> Avoid inflammatory language

Once you learn to utilize these steps, at the end of the conversation, learn to summarize and reflect. Then, always leave the door open for follow-up conversations.

If you would like to learn more about advocacy or connecting with our customer, reach out to me on social media as @beefrunner and I will be glad to carry on the conversation.

Ryan Goodman lives in Parker, Colorado, and works with farmers, ranchers and consumers through grassroots advocacy projects.

September 2017