3 Tips for Communicating about Agriculture

I recently purchased a new computer. As I searched for which computer to purchase, I couldn’t help but notice the long list of specifications aimed to helping me pick out my “dream” computer. And let’s be honest…

Did I understand any of it? No. Did it frustrate me? Yes. Did I give up and ask an expert? Ummm… Heck yes.

You see – I didn’t have time to look up what the various terms utilized to describe the computer parts meant, which ultimately meant I didn’t care what the specifications of the computer were. What I cared about was that at the end of the day my computer was going to work, be reliable and last more than just a couple years.

I trusted my friend (who has worked in IT for several years) to pick out a computer for me in a certain price range. He asked a couple of questions about what I intended to do with the computer and then a week later sent me a computer he claimed was “amazing”. I bought it without hesitation.

I use this example when I talk about agriculture communications.

Agriculture has a lot of vocabulary terms…

Heifers. TMR. Sileage. AI. Baleage. No-till. Plows. Oats. Ewes. Wethers. Boer. Boar. Bore.

And these terms often confuse consumers. Yet, when I talk to those in agriculture about communicating with those who are not in the industry; often, their first reaction is that we need to provide terms to consumers that are used in agriculture. They say things like, “We need to create a list of terms we use to describe animals and help consumers understand!”

While there may be some consumers who are interested in these terms, most people I’ve talked to say they start to tune out when they see a list of vocabulary - feeling discouraged because they don’t understand the terms – just as I felt when picking out my computer.

Consumers don’t necessarily want to know vocabulary words used on a farm; instead they want to know that the food they are eating was safely, humanely and sustainably raised.

So how do we do that? Here are three tips we can do in our everyday communications about agriculture:

  1. We can share everyday happenings on the farm – the exciting, the sad, the bad, the fun… the everything. Our everyday stories show farmers are human and consumers can relate.

  2. We can use “farm vocabulary” smartly. My above example isn't meant to steer you away from using farm terms completely; instead don’t make a long list of vocabulary and expect people to read it. If you incorporate vocabulary people may not understand, define it directly in your content.

  3. We can make efforts to answer people’s questions. Consumers have questions about agriculture, but they don’t know who to ask. Be someone willing to answer questions and be openly available to help them understand.

Kallie Jo Kastenson

Phone: 262-716-3586

Email:  kallie.kastenson@briarmarketing.com

Located in Southeastern Wisconsin