Lessons Learned Through Agricultural Conversations

This morning as I was reading a post from Agriculture Proud titled, “How to Lose an Argument on Food and Agriculture Topics,” and I just had to share it. In his post Ryan Goodman, the author of Agriculture Proud, included a quote from Darwin that really stuck with me:

“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the ones most adaptable to change.” -Darwin

Granted Darwin was probably referencing his theory on “survival of the fittest,” but I think being adaptable to change is an essential quality for all aspects of life, especially in agriculture. In Goodman’s post he talks about the lessons he has learned during failure and why people, who have the best intentions of advocating, lose arguments. He specifically relates the quote from Darwin to failing to engage in other conversations and seek out other perspectives, but I think the quote pertains to each of his points.

Goodman’s ten lessons learned during failure and reasons for losing an argument are:

1. Assuming science will give us the answers; it only gives us some of the answers.

2. Using economics as the justification for all of our practices.

3. Assuming that you have to speak up in defense of all agricultural practices.

4. Being reactive rather than proactive.

5. Assuming we can’t do better.

6. Attacking everyone who disagrees with you in a negative, critical manner.

7. Not being willing to listen because we are so busy responding.

8. Assuming that the lunatic fringe is the general public.

9. Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil or both.

10. Not working to branch outside your comfort zone.

As I was reading these points I couldn’t help but think how true they are. As an agricultural enthusiast, I can look back to every argument I ever had and lost and relate at least one of these points to the reason for losing. We can’t know everything, and we are not going to come from the same background as the person we are in conversation with. But, if we take Darwin’s quote to heart, and work to be more adaptive, we can not only be more successful arguing a point, but also learn more along the way.

In the post, Goodman then goes on to talk about how we can approach controversial topics. He has multiple points, but a few of my favorites are: consider your own biases or confusion surrounding the issue; set a framework and objectives for the discussion that lead to engagement and consideration of opposing viewpoints; and at the end of a conversation summarize and reflect, then always leave the door open for follow-up conversations.

After reading this post, I hope to remember these lessons and become better at engaging in agricultural conversations while being open-minded to other perspectives. To read the full list of tips and expand on lessons learned, check out this post on Agriculture Proud.

Staying up-to-date with Purdue Ag Week

As you probably know from my previous posts, Purdue Ag Week is right around the corner. The Ag Week Task Force recently released a video that illustrates what Ag Week is all about and highlights key activities to look forward to.

Here is their video, and be sure to mark in your calendar the events you want to attend.

You can stay connected with the Ag Week Task Force on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


This semester at Purdue, I’ve gotten the chance to step out of my comfort zone and learn to communicate through video. While I certainly don’t consider myself a videographer, I have noticed that now when watching a clip I pick up on various aspects: close-up shots, medium shots, wide shots, angles, use of questions.

Learning about these techniques have made me really appreciate a good video. Even more, I now appreciate how the use of these techniques can really make a video hit home for the viewer and tug on their emotions.

The other day, I ran across this video from the American Quarter Horse Foundation, and  I felt a need to share it.  From the narration, to the use of angles and variety of shots, this video pulled me in from beginning to end. It made me want to work harder on my own projects to give my audiences a similar experience.

The mission of the American Quarter Horse Foundation  is to advance the American Quarter Horse and the relationship it shares with people. This video illustrates the bond between a horse and its owner. 

What are some of your favorite agricultural videos?


Finding and coming to love Ag Comm

For many life moments and decisions, there is no cookie cutter path to follow nor is there one correct destination to come to. I have found that this is especially true throughout your collegiate career.

Like many students, I changed my mind a time or two about what I wanted to study.  I had vet school in mind, and later set my mind on Animal Sciences focusing on nutrition.  Then, a month before starting my Junior year, I met with my adviser and set my heart on Ag Comm.

Today, I couldn’t be happier with my decision, but hindsight is 20/20 and in the midst of making those big decisions it’s nice to know that other students also took a winding path toward Ag Comm (or whatever major they chose). In a blog post by Abigail Maurer, she shared her story of changing majors and why she chose Ag Comm. Like me, she took a winding path.

Abby talks about how she started in speech therapy, then switched to English education all before finding her passion in Agricultural Communication. And, her reason for studying Ag Comm is simple, “I love food. I love people. I love words. And that’s what ag comm is all about.”

As I continued to read her post, I also connected with her overall Purdue experience:

“But studying ag comm at Purdue is wonderful for more reasons than food, people and words.  In my major, I found the academic experience I always wanted college to be.  Classes that stimulated my mind and moved my heart.  Professors who cared about my life.  Friends with whom I could sit in classes and attend club meetings.”-Abigail Maurer

Being about a month away from graduation, I can’t imagine getting a degree in anything else, and I have loved my Purdue Ag Comm experience. I love learning about all aspects of agriculture, I love sharing stories about Ag, and I love that my major has taught me about communicating across a variety of platforms.

Being an Advocate

“Transparency is the answer. Even that will be attacked.” – Ryan Goodman, Agriculture Proud.

No matter what you are advocating for, it never seems to be easy. I am new to blogging, and putting my thoughts out there for everyone to read are often difficult. Even if the topic is not controversial. After reading “Lessons I’ve Learned While Sticking My Neck Out” by Ryan Goodman, it hit me that putting yourself out there, being honest and advocating for agriculture can still be difficult for people I would consider veteran advocates.

Ryan Goodman is the author of the blog titled, “Agriculture Proud.” According to Goodman, “Agriculture Proud is all about sharing the great story of those involved in all aspects of Agriculture.” It’s about telling your story, being authentic and excited about your passion for agriculture, and having a candid point of view, he says. Goodman’s articles have been used by news channels including CNN’s Eatocracy, and he has been a keynote speaker at various events such as AgChat Foundation conferences.

In his latest blog post, he notes that people will be quick to place judgement, especially on social media, and will leave some not so loving comments.  There are also a lot of stories out there about agriculture, some positive and some negative. Yes, we might get kicked in the shin by someone, but if we don’t talk about our experiences in agiculture, then who will?

As a young communicator, writer and advocate I found it extremely inspiring that even though he has faced cruel people and angering stories, Ryan Goodman continues to be a voice for agriculture. I wanted to share these words with you from Goodman’s blog:

“But we have a responsibility to join the conversations and be present when people have questions. Otherwise we lose our voice in the conversations and essentially any representation when it comes time to make decisions that determine our ability to continue making a living in the world we live in… we have to remember there are lots of folks out there silently listening watching our (re)actions, and wanting to learn more about where their food comes from.”

I encourage you to check out Goodman’s blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube.

Go Pinning for Agriculture

It’s more than just hairstyles and wedding ideas. Pinterest is grabbing the attention of various news sources, and it’s becoming a fun way to stay connected with your favorite companies or organizations.

Here are a few of my favorite agriculture-based Pinterest boards:

  • The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) has over 900 pins across 32 boards. Their pins range from money saving tips to horse events happening around the country. Two of my favorite AQHA boards are:

  • America’s Farmers by Monsanto is relatively new to Pinterest, but they also have some great boards. Whether they feature a picture from the farm or agriculture humor, I love looking at their pins. My favorite board from America’s Farmers is “On the farm.”

  • Indiana Dairy pins delicious dairy recipes, gorgeous Indiana barns, cow print fun, and milk mustaches, just to name a few. If you’re looking for a new way to stay in tune with Hoosier dairy, then these boards are perfect. My favorite board from Indiana Dairy features dairy farmers from across the state.

  • The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) has taken to Pinterest to show the role agriculture plays in the state’s economy and culture. I’m hoping that they continue to develop their boards, but I think they are showing great Pinterest promise.  This weekend I plan to try out one of their recipes.

Meet a Former Ag. Comm. Student

We may come from different backgrounds or have plans of going opposite directions, but we come together in the Agriculture Communications program. This post is all about giving incoming, current and former Purdue Ag. Comm. students (and anyone interested) a chance to meet some else in the program.

Amanda Gee, of North Vernon, Ind., completed her undergrad as an Ag. Comm. major in December 2013. Get Amanda’s perspective on Purdue’s Ag. Comm. program in this short Q&A interview:

Q&A with Amanda Gee

  • What made you decide to major in Agricultural Communications?

“I took kind of a circuitous route to Ag. Comm. I’ve always had eclectic interests, and as a high school senior I applied to five colleges with five different majors. I started out at Purdue in Pre-Pharmacy. After deciding that wasn’t my cup of tea, I checked out a number of majors. Then I met with an advisor and some AgComma’s who are now alumni. They convinced me to join with their passions for agriculture and the program. My Ag. Comm. journey began my sophomore year, and I never looked back.” 

  • What was your favorite part about the Ag. Comm. program?

“The sense of community. The program is small compared to most others on campus, but it’s like a tight-knit family. I met people in my first Ag. Comm. class who not only helped me in future classes and told me about a internship opportunity I’d love, but who also became some of my best friends.”

  • What was your favorite class at Purdue?

Hard choice! I would say Intro to PR, Wine Appreciation, Problems in PR, Horses in Europe study abroad, and Intro to New Media all rank at the top of my list. But, I’m going to go with ANSC393: Animal Industry Travel Course that I took last year for my Animal Sciences minor. We toured farms and agribusinesses across the Midwest over Spring Break (read more here), and then came back and gave a presentation about it. It was a great opportunity, and not one that I’ll soon forget. Coming from a family beef farm in southeastern Indiana still didn’t quite prepare me for the sight of 72,000 head of cattle at a feedlot in Nebraska. And, some of the pics I took along the way sparked discussion of modern ag on my Facebook page, à la Ag. Comm. in action.”

  • What was your favorite club or activity?

“Big surprise…Ag Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT). It’s a professional club for Ag. Comm. students. I got to network with Ag. Comm. professionals and students, and hone my writing skills through some club projects. I’m not a big talker (funny that I’m in Ag. Comm. then, I know), but I was able to strengthen my writing and work on those presentational skills and get feedback on both. ”

  • How did the Ag. Comm. program prepare you for a future career?

“I learned how to be a better writer, communicator and critical thinker. I’ve always loved to write, but now I can confidently say that whether I need to create a press release, media plan, blog, hard news story, feature/profile, Facebook post, short video, photo collage, etc…I can do it, and do it well. The program also taught me about opportunities; if there isn’t one readily available that fits you, find or create one and go for it. All of my internships started with cold-calling because I was interested in learning from those people. And luckily, I got paid for them too!”

  • Where are you now?

“I’m pursuing my Master’s here at Purdue in Youth Development and Agricultural Education, with a concentration in Ag. Comm. I haven’t decided exactly what the focus of my research will be, but I want it to be something about engaging and involving audience members with a message. This summer, I’m traveling to Romania to help with a class, do research for my professor, and work on co-construction of stories with locals. After I graduate in a couple years, I’d like to be a communication/PR director of an agribusiness or even work with an international non-profit.”

Soak up the Rays, Guide the Online Conversation

Farm Credit – WANTED: Ag Comms Students for NAMA Social Media Corps.

The National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and Farm Credit are looking for agricultural communication students to come enjoy the Florida sunshine and share stories on the NAMA’s digital platforms.

Feb. 21 (TODAY) is the last day to apply to be a part of the Social Media Corps. Applying is quick and easy.

This year’s Agri-Marketing Conference is being held in Jacksonville, Fla. This three day event for professionals and students is full of the latest trends in ag. communications, social media, and industry news. The 2014 Social Media Corps is a team of students who will collect social media content and guide the online conversation for the event.

The need-to-know details:

  • Who: Agriculture Communications Students
  • What: NAMA Social Media Corps
  • When: April 9-11
  • Where: Jacksonville, Fla.

Who are they looking for?

They’re looking for student NAMA members who are:

  • Planning to attend the 2014 Agri-Marketing Conference
  • Passionate about social media and digital storytelling
  • Looking to learn more about running a strategic social media program
  • Currently enrolled in a NAMA accredited university
  • A member of student NAMA


Weekend Humor

As the snow falls outside and I sit here trying to keep warm, I thought a little farm humor would be a perfect way to brighten the rest of the weekend. Not only do these videos provide a few laughs, but wrapped up in their humor is a story that shows the public what is happening in the world of agriculture.

  • The Peterson Farm Bros have become known for their parodies.  Each video uses clever, educational lyrics and images that have put a face on large farms.

  • The Midwest Dairy Association squeezed their love for dairy farms into this short video that includes footage from family farms in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

  • This young farmer put his own spin on “Cups” to show where food comes from.

Enjoy these videos, and be sure to share any farm humor you find!