Passionately share your Farm

Last week I attended Michigan Farm Bureau’s Voice of Agriculture conference. The keynote speaker was Michele Payn. Check out her website at Cause Matters

Michele talked about how farmers need to share about themselves and their farms authentically and passionately. Why is this even remotely important? Michele has written two books now about how to connect people to food without fear or shame. Again, why is this important?  Michele really hit home how farmers need to be part of the food conversation. Sure we grow crops and provide meat and milk to the world but does the world know who we are?

Seriously? Do they know us? Why should they trust us? There are so many mixed messages concerning our food. You can hear everything from “Farmers are poisoning us with that nasty Roundup” to ” Cows are pumped full of hormones”. By the way, this isn’t online that I hear this. It’s in conversations with people in our area, that’s sad.

What can you do about it? Well it’s not easy and it’s a bit scary. Have a conversation with those people.Don’t lecture, don’t get mad, don’t get defensive.  Identify with that person some how. If they are a parent try to identify with them as a parent and go from there. Get people to trust what your saying comes from a good place. Facts aren’t going to win this conversation. Emotion is, rather I should say your passion backed with experience and a smattering of facts.

It’s not easy since you know the facts of  say why you dehorn your dairy calves for example.  Dairy folk know its for the safety of both the animal and humans. Outsiders think it looks cruel and tortuous. If you look at it from that perspective it does look pretty bad. So turn that into an emotion another person can understand, tell a story of what happens when cows with even deformed horns can get really aggressive and cause harm.

You can find Michelle’s books online. Michelle just contacted me to help the spread the word that she’s doing training for those in agriculture. Visit that here:

I’m not being paid at all for promoting her books or training, but in listening to a lot of people, she’s really one of the few that is hitting all the hot button topics at the same time. I have her No More Food Fight book if you’d like to borrow it. I’ll be buying her second one shortly. I would love to go to her training. Anyone else want to join me to be a better ag communicator?




Ms DeHate Goes to Washington DC

Two weeks ago I participated in American Farm Bureau’s Women’s Communication Boot Camp. Why? It was a great opportunity to hone my skills as a communicator that’s involved in all things farming. If you want more info on how you can participate, give me a shout and I’ll help you out.

American Farm Bureau Federation wasn’t lying when they labeled this program as a Boot Camp! In the four days, I was in Washington DC at AFBF’s Women’s Communication Boot Camp from October 24-27. I needed to write a 3 minute speech on the Farm Bill and present that during the event. Little did I know my 3 minute speech was the least of my worries. Ha-ha!

Let’s just say that my travel to Washington DC was a bit like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. My flights and connections were just fine, since I flew into Baltimore rather than DC. Hey, it was cheap and the connecting Amtrak train sounded pretty fool proof. Unfortunately, I found the train wasn’t fool proof. It was over an hour late! No problem, right? No, no not even close. See, I had scheduled a visit with Senator Stabenow’s office at 2:30. I didn’t get into the train station in DC till 3:10. I emailed Stabenow’s office and had told them I wasn’t able to make it. I did barely get to my appointment with Rep. Moolenaar. He and his staff were great and we had some discussion on the Farm Bill. My day really wasn’t done by a long shot. I arrived at my hotel just on time to see that the rest of the ladies were about headed to AFBF offices. Luckily, Sherry Saylor, Chair of AFBF’s Women’s Leadership Committee, waited for me to put my bags away. Once at AFBF headquarters we were given the overview of the week and made introductions. There were 15 of us total from all over the nation.  We then made our way to a wonderful restaurant while getting a bus tour of DC along the way. The meal was so good! Course it helped I didn’t have time to eat all day. I’m pretty sure most anything would have tasted good. After stuffing ourselves and wanting to find our hotel bed, the staff said nope, we are taking you on another tour. We went to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and Jefferson Memorial. Our tour guide, Jordan is a certified guide and an AFBF staff member! I learned a lot of great details about the monuments that I didn’t know before. Even in my tired state of mind I remember a lot of these details. Finally we made it back to our hotel. Wow! This was just Tuesday!

Wednesday, first thing we started off with giving our speech! Yay! Well, not really, but you know it wasn’t so bad. After our presentations, Elise Stoddard, Director of Organization Development gave us some really great tips on using gestures, inflection, and other easy but extremely powerful tips on how to make vocal presentations better. Later Elise critiqued my speech and gave some very good tips on how to make it better. What was hard was to watch myself give my presentation. It just felt so awkward!  The afternoon featured Johnna Miller, Director of Media and Advocacy Training for AFBF. She spoke to us on Social Media Advocacy and Media Training Basics. Johnna is tough, her nickname is Johnna the Piranha. She was never mean, just lots of tough love. Her comments probably were the ones that made me stretch the most personally. This lady knows her stuff!    Our cat herders were Jamison Cruce and Maggie Good. Jamison recommended some great places and Wednesday night we went to the Georgetown area on the Potomac and ate a seafood restaurant. Again great food!

Man, Thursday was crazy. We were put through our paces by doing a mock radio interview, print interview, and TV interview. Each had evaluations and tips on how to improve. There was enough time for me to go walk a bit in the Smithsonian Air Flight and Aviation Museum.  After lunch Lindsay Calvert, Director of Learning & Development for AFBF spoke to us on public speaking. To be honest, after Lindsay spoke there were 2 more presenters, but my brain was really full, apparently and I don’t really remember all that much about the tips for seeking and running for public office.  Later that afternoon we got the news that we would need to prepare a speech on our chosen topic and be ready for a mock press conference. Yikes. As a group we decided to either dine in or eat at the hotel restaurant. I know after supper I spent probably 4 hours writing and prepping for giving my speech, plus repacking for the trip home. That was totally nerve wracking. I woke up at 4 am without an alarm, with thoughts on how to change and tweak my speech. Argh!

As I got everything together and practiced my speech for the 50th time on Friday morning I realized I was beyond nervous. I rarely get nervous about this stuff. I was also nervous about getting to the airport but that worked itself out when 3 of us shared an Uber ride to the airport. Did I mention my curling iron stopped working and smoked the outlet in my hotel bathroom? That was fun.  And added to my nervousness as I borrowed a flat iron to curl my hair (I’ve never done that, but it worked!) Later that morning, we presented our speeches and answered questions on the fly and then were critiqued again. Julia Ann Potts, Executive Vice President of AFBF gave the closing remarks about faking it till you make it. Boy did that hit home!  After a brief “graduation” ceremony and lunch we were on our way to our respective homes.

I still have lots to process from the boot camp. I’ll be reviewing my notes, handouts, and that speech. But best of all I made 20 new friends. We now follow each other on Facebook and Twitter and gave each other our business cards. We laughed at ourselves throughout the week, groaned when Johnna really went after someone really trying to break them down, and cheered for our improvements. Without these ladies and spending time getting to know each other this experience wouldn’t have been so rich.

So what did I really learn? I can answer tough questions. I can turn a negative into a positive. I can boil down jargon into something a consumer would understand. That I am an advocate and that it matters that I have passion for what I speak about. Being authentic isn’t a marketing strategy it’s truly who I am and I can now translate that into what I do.