As an ag journalist, I read plenty of articles about the importance of agriculture communication. Many folks are interested in how food producers and various ag stakeholders convey their messages. Some seem concerned about image, while others focus more on credible information. Is it best to discuss issues politely on the front porch or yell and jump around in the barnyard? Their tactics certainly vary, as these three examples demonstrate.
“Scientists Are Human Too”
Professor Alison Van Eenennaam is a respected researcher and influential ag communicator from UC-Davis. During her recent speech at the National Press Club, “Communicating Science in a Networked World,” she emphasized the need for scientists to use facts and skills to shine a light on beneficial ag tech and innovation. She also thinks it is important that scientists show their “human side” as they communicate. Van Eenennaam uses humor, logic, and specific examples to get her point across.
“Communication Is a Two-way Street”
Ryan Goodman thinks science is important, but he also emphasizes ethics and understanding. He says that agriculturalists spend too much time worrying about the “lunatic fringe” and not enough time working with the public. A proud farmer and successful blogger, he advocates thoughtfulness, empathy, and a willingness to listen.
“Appeal to Emotion, Not Science”
In this editorial, popular keynote speaker Damian Mason lays out reasons why he is willing to accept confrontation for the cause of agriculture. He wants a “well-organized, united front” to “take up the battle.” He admires the tactics used by the National Rifle Association. As he says, “Agriculture is under attack. It’s time to follow the NRA example.”
What's Up, Doc?
Doc Callahan knocks the farm dirt off his shoes and visits occasionally, so I asked him how he reacted to the three methods. He's been "communicating about ag" since his farm days at the local feed store and his years as a college professor. As he sees it...
"All three methods give us something to consider, but I think it’s always better to have the facts on my side. Van Eenennaam shows how science can have a human face. She's passionate about ag, but she has a fun side. Goodman seems like a fellow who knows what he believes but also knows how to listen to others. Seems like the type you wouldn't mind goin' fishin' with. As for the third style, I’m an NRA member myself, but I’m not much interested in focusing on words like battle and armed citizenry. I'm sure Mason doesn't always advocate confrontation, but he did say it’s no use taking a pitchfork to a gunfight. I’d rather gather up some scientific facts and rural common sense--and then find a reasoned debate. If you go looking for a gunfight, you’re just as likely to shoot yourself in the foot."
by dan gogerty (top pic from miller-mccune.jpg; bottom one from friendshipcircle.org)