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How the Soybean Leadership College Helped Me Advocate for Agriculture
Social Media Corps members Rachel, Josie and Kennedy from Iowa State University attend the 2016 Soybean Leadership College

How the Soybean Leadership College Helped Me Advocate for Agriculture

Farm Credit is a proud supporter of the Soybean Leadership College through the National Contributions Program. Guest author Josie Burgett is a freshman at Iowa State University.

Shortly before winter break, I accepted the opportunity to attend the 2016 Soybean Leadership College as part of the Social Media Corps sponsored by Farm Credit. Less than a month later, with an airline-boarding pass in one hand and a suitcase in the other, I was on my way to Orlando, Florida.

Being a self-proclaimed expert in the field of social media, I was enthusiastic to get my hands on the American Soybean Association’s Facebook page and amplify the news that was coming out of the conference. It did not take me very long to realize I would be learning more than just how to take a photo, come up with a clever caption, and post it within a timely manner.

The reason why I loved the Soybean Leadership College is that it taught me about what it really means to be an advocate for agriculture and how to address consumers and the public when discussing industry topics.

My key takeaways from the conference include:

Relate to Consumers Through Shared Values

I was surprised to learn the main concern consumers have regarding agriculture and biotechnology is not about making farming more efficient, or feeding the future population, but about the safety and nutrition of their own food. A great way to relate to consumers is by focusing on shared values. Talk in terms of parent to parent instead of farmer to consumer. Let them know that you too want the best for your health and your family.

Share Stories, Not Facts

Shane Meeker inspired the audience at the conference by stressing the importance of storytelling. He notes that “A story is not a formula - there are ingredients but you have to make it yourself.” A session about social media also discussed the importance of storytelling as a way to educate the public - what methods you use on your farm and why they benefit you, as opposed to solely focusing on science. Kevin Hoyer from Hoyer Farms left the audience with the quote, “Tell your story; don’t let someone else tell your story. They’ll get it wrong.”

Advocate for Agriculture

Overall, my experience at the 2016 Soybean Leadership College inspired me to become a better advocate for agriculture. Being a student in an agricultural major surrounded every day by other people like myself, I sometimes forget that there is a large population out there that does not know the difference between a combine and a cultivator. I look forward to educating the public more by sharing my story through social media, blog posts, and individual conversation. My new motto, thanks to speaker David Okerlund, is “within every uncertainty lies a seed of potential waiting to sprout”.