Nov. 24 2014 06:26 AM

Discussing policy and practices with consumers is all about talking with them, not at them.

As a nation, consumers are no longer interested in just the nutritional content of the food but also how it is produced and how production affects the environment. One of the biggest struggles that the agriculture industry faces is explaining it in a way that is understandable and personal. Bruce Vincent, a Montana logger and traveling speaker on this issue, said during a November 10 lecture at Kansas State University that the trick to communicating is talking with people rather than at them.

"Address the enemy, the enemy is ignorance," Vincent said during the lecture. He made a point to acknowledge that it was not an industry versus consumer battle. There is ignorance of what happens in agriculture, but there is also ignorance in agriculture of the consumer. Vincent asked attendees to view the issues from consumers' perspectives and understand that their concerns come from a desire to know more about food production and opportunities to improve practices.

In the industry today, we have acknowledged that there is an opportunity for better communication, but the challenge we face is in figuring out where to start. Vincent left the lecture attendees with three take-home messages for sharing agriculture's story.
  1. Be involved with the democratic process because it does work, but it's not a spectator sport.
  2. Don't be afraid to be a leader and engager of the conversations.
  3. Show up at community events, activities and meetings. Meet consumers where they discuss things that are important to them.
Vincent said his hope for the future lies in the students in attendance and those across the country studying agriculture. He described the future of the industry and the conversation as belonging to leaders and the bright minds that are choosing careers in agriculture.

Seiler blog footer
The author was the 26th Hoard's Dairyman editorial intern. She is a senior at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. At KSU, Maggie is double majoring in agricultural communications and journalism and animal sciences and industry. Seiler grew up on a 130-cow registered Holstein dairy in Valley Center, Kan., near Wichita.