Three years ago during a brainstorming session between Ray Prock, Darin Grimm and I we came up with a word to describe agricultural advocates that has grown to become a common word used within the agricultural community. The terms “agvocacy” and “agvocate” combined with other efforts in the agricultural community became the basis why the three of us worked with other leaders in the agricultural social media community to build the AgChat Foundation in an effort to encourage other agvocates to embrace the tools of social media and proactively share information about their knowledge of agriculture.
The goal of getting more agricultural individuals to speak up has for the most part been a success. Several recent events involving agriculture have proved that when a story involving farming or ranching occurs there are literally thousands of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural professionals that are willing and able to speak their mind and share their viewpoints about the situation. As stated on the AgChat Foundation’s website agvocacy is:
Agvocacy is a combination of agriculture and advocacy. The inherent active nature of the word has led many farmers and others in ag to make it a favorite for many in the #AgChat community and spread it to other channels and personal conversations. Agvocacy is not about targeting any selected group, such as media or elected officials – it’s representative of ag proactively telling our story.
When agvocating, it’s important to be proactive and listen to others concerns. It involves connecting with those outside of agriculture that are curious about today’s farmers and ranchers. Finding common ground on things and building from there provides opportunities to grow the conversation. It is through relationship development and discussion that understanding moves the image of agriculture forward. That said, agvocating is one way to get information about agriculture to the people who are interested.
Not all actions on behalf of agriculture can be considered agvocating though, as some actions are more along the line of agtivism. Agtivism is different because it has a more narrow goal to educate everyone about agriculture. It may not include interacting with consumers every day, but is geared toward setting the record straight quickly when they see misrepresentations about agriculture. Individuals practicing agtivism, or agtivists’ often take offense to others with opposing views and dismiss theirs concerns about agriculture to prove their point that today’s agriculture practices must exist in order to feed the world.
These two distinct actions have very real effects on how they are able to connect and build relationships with the general public.
I liken the way that an agvocate communicates with others to how The Humane Society of United States (HSUS) communicates with others. Even though HSUS has a goal of eliminating our right to consume animal protein, they walk a much finer line in their communications to the public and find ways that their ideals can connect with mainstream cultural beliefs and concerns. A similar comparison can be made between an Agtivist and The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA has the same agenda of eliminating animal protein; however their communications are much more blunt expecting others to fully embrace their thoughts overnight, thus disconnecting themselves with mainstream values and are very easily labeled as extremists and end up only resonating with those that already support their beliefs.
There are several different ways to share your passion, none of which are necessarily incorrect methods. If you are passionate about spreading information about agriculture to those outside of agriculture it’s important to look at your goals and what type of individual you are trying to reach. From there you can best determine if you should work hard at becoming an agtivist or an agvocate, or a combination of the two…. just realize that one action could get in the way of the other because crossovers will stay around for a while.
So, what are you?