With summer field day season approaching, farmers are frequently call upon to share their farm and conservation stories. I always encourage farmers to share, as their message is very important and more valuable described in their own words. I also get many calls for help assisting farmers on how to effectively tell their conservation stories. Here are just a few basic ideas to start from:
- Know your audience. Is the group relatively informed about agriculture? Do they want to hear basics of your farm operation? Do they want to hear about conservation on your farm, or are they more interested in policy?
- Know your main points. Typically, an audience will have less capacity to grasp new information than you will have available, so pick out the 3 or 4 ideas you most want them to remember and stick close to these points.
- Stick to what you know. If you are talking about your own farm, this is straightforward. What practices work for you? How did you identify practices that work? What did it take to implement these practices? What problem were you trying to solve? Avoid comparing your farm to others. Recognize that other farmers may have addressed the same problem with a different practice. Your choice works for you, but the choices other farmers make can also be successful.
- Be positive. Avoid the temptation to make your system more attractive by highlighting the flaws in other systems. Don’t characterize previous generations as bad stewards, rather, point out how you have learned from things that didn’t work so well in the past. Don’t characterize your neighbors or other farmers as poor stewards to build yourself up.
By starting with these tips, you can successfully share your experiences in agriculture and conservation and effectively convey your expertise on these subjects. If you are stuck or have more questions about where to start, use your resources and contacts. Start by asking your farm advisers and agricultural organizations and work from there.