Make a difference one conversation at time
Let’s be honest. It can be frustrating to hear misleading stories about food production. Consumers see sensationalized headlines about food production and may not have all the necessary facts to make informed food choices.
Can you blame them? We’re all leading busy lives. It can be difficult to isolate facts in an atmosphere of emotion and noise. Sometimes, there can be a temptation to respond with a witty or snarky comment. But how does that response build trust in our food system?
Think about your biggest concern for your family’s health or well-being. Imagine if your concerns were simply dismissed. Would that bring you peace of mind? How would people watching the conversation on the sidelines react?
Keep in mind these tips next time you have a potentially heated conversation about ag and food:
- Listen, listen and listen. Then listen some more. Do you remember the last conversation you had where it felt like the other person truly understood where you were coming from? How did that affect your sense of connection to that person? Building trust matters. Practise active listening by re-framing what you’ve heard in a respectful way and make sure the other person agrees with your interpretation.
- Keep calm. Appreciate someone’s concern and genuine interest in food. It’s an opportunity for us in the ag industry to listen and connect. Remember that there are often observers evaluating how you handle the situation. In the case of extreme activism or cyber bullying, it’s perfectly OK to politely defer or completely exit a conversation.
- Dump your assumptions. It’s all too easy to lump consumers or “city people” into one category and assume they have certain opinions, experiences and knowledge. Remain curious — you may be surprised what you learn.
- Get personal. Connect the topic to your own farm and food story. Why do you do the things you do on your farm, or, in your work in the industry? What are your own concerns as a farmer, a parent, a business owner, a community member? Tie-in your own concerns and experiences to find common points of interest from the listening exercise in the first point.
Even though many of these conversations can and should happen online, a face-to-face conversation does wonders in creating a memorable and meaningful way to echo across that person’s circle of influence.
Thanks for being a part of the conversation.