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Championing Agriculture

Use these six conversation cornerstones to help agriculture protect agriculture.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (Nov. 4, 2015) — Touting her animal science degree from Michigan State University, Michele Payn-Knoper of Cause Matters Corp. and a leading farm and food advocate, gave it to her Angus University audience straight. When it comes to protecting farmers’ and ranchers’ right to farm how they choose — cut the science, spread the feelings.

“I love science. I just happen to believe that it doesn’t work in having a conversation around food, particularly in today’s emotional conversations when you look at what others are having,” she said at the Championing Agriculture workshop Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the National Angus Convention & Trade Show in Overland Park, Kan.

Payn-Knoper offered six steps cattlemen and women can use to have a conversation and share their stories. Those stories, she clarified, don’t necessarily have to be shared on social media if you don’t want. Have them in the church parking lot if you choose.

“At the end of the day, I’m asking you to do one thing, and it’s pretty simple. I’m asking you to share why you love agriculture with the people that matter to you,” she challenged.

No. 1: Who? — Define your target: One and a half percent of the U.S. population lives on a farm or ranch, she said. That means to 98.5% of the United States what we do is very novel. Ask yourself who specifically it is that you need to focus on to have the conversation about beef, about agriculture.

No. 2: What? — Know their passion: Referring to hot-button issues, Payn-Knoper encouraged her listeners to know their target audience’s hot buttons, or points of passion. Remember, she cautioned, “It’s their hot buttons, not yours, and they’re not all related to farming food.”

No. 3: Why? — Connect with hot buttons: “My informal research across the country shows dietitians are interested in making science-based decisions, they want people to understand what they do, and they want respect. Sound familiar?” she questioned.

Figure out ways to prick the audience’s curiosity. She suggested ruminant nutritionists refer to themselves as “cow dietitians.”

She also suggested dropping the agriculture acronyms and speaking the same language as those across the plate.

No. 4: When? — Invest in your future: Over and over she said, “Be proactive.”

“Angus breeders, if you are already doing the right thing taking care of your cattle, why aren’t you talking about it?” she posed. “Proactive conversations always win over defensive reactions.”

The next best business practice of 2015 should be spending 15 minutes each day telling your story, she suggested. Share on social media, share in person and share however you want, she said.

“You can figure out where it makes the most sense based upon your target audience.

“It’s about protecting your future. It’s about protecting your children and grandchildren’s future.”

No. 5: Where? — Think global, act local: These are global issues, but work on them from a local basis, Payn-Knoper encouraged.

No. 6: How? — Commit to a plan: This plan will allow you to channel your passion in a positive way, she said.

“It will empower you to truly reach people that you probably thought you would never reach,” Payn-Knoper stated. “I can tell you from my personal experience that I have seen thousands of people impacted because of these six steps.”

“At the end of the day, you may think you are in the Angus business. I would beg to differ,” she emphasized. “You are absolutely in the people business because the reality is that everything we do in agriculture is to touch human beings and to help human beings.”

Angus University was sponsored by Merck Animal Health.

Editor’s Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal, which maintains the copyright. To request permission to reprint, please contact Shauna Hermel at 816-383-5270.