Tell your ag story or someone else will – and you may not like it!

Larry Sailer

It’s hard to believe that 12 years have passed since I began telling others the story of pork production and crop farming.  I believe I even started talking to non-farming groups before the phrase agvocating was coined!  The reason I started making time to deliver free speeches across the state (and sometimes even out of state) is because it’s so important for us to share with others.

Farmers have done a great job or taking care of our animals and crops, including soil and natural resources.  However, most farmers are also very modest and don’t go around telling others – especially non-farmers – all that we do or how we do it.  Other groups, like PETA and HSUS, have unfortunately filled the communication void for us by painting a picture based on misinformation and emotion.  By doing so, they’ve pushed their agendas and have gained widespread national media attention.

Farmers are starting to make the headlines, too.  We’re gaining coverage in farm publications like Farm Talk, Agri-View and occasionally mainstream papers like The Des Moines Register.  It’s a start…

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We’re having more impact reaching consumers, one group at a time through speaker’s bureaus like Operation Main Street (OMS).  Formed in 2004 by the National Pork Board with 15 trained volunteer speakers, Operation Main Street grew to 250 trained speakers in 2005.  This group of speakers was formed because there was a need for farmers to not only talk with, but to listen to, our customers otherwise known as consumers.  With OMSspeakers trained and at the ready, pork producers have a force to spread the truth about how and why we have made changes to our farms.  The OMS program even started to address college classes and groups of dietitians and county commissioners.

Shortly after the New Year 2012, a milestone 5,000th speech was delivered through Operation Main Street by Arcola, Ill., pork producer Pat Titus to the Ambucs Club.

“The OMS program has allowed me to have a dialogue with consumers who rarely have any contact with agriculture,” said Titus, in an article posted Feb. 6 by Wallaces Farmer.  “It’s really up to us to tell our story and connect with consumers so they know that we are committed to producing good, safe food, and to caring for our animals and the environment.”

I couldn’t have said it better!  I’ve made close to 50 presentations to civic groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Optimists, Civitians and groups I had never heard of before they called me.  Last week I talked to a great group of Optimists from Marshalltown, Iowa.  These groups appreciate having a “real farmer” come and talk with them about what that farmer does.  I know why I’ve made certain changes to my operation, so I just explain “the why and how.”  The groups to which I have spoken have been very receptive to my presentations.

With more consumers curious about where food comes from, there is a greater need for more farmers to share their stories.  If you’re a fellow farmer, I encourage you to take the leap and advocate!  If you’re a consumer, I encourage you to check out fact-based information and learn more about what farmers do through programs like Operation Main Street.