Social events connect media, agriculture

07/12/2013 09:44:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Vicky Boyd, staff writerVicky Boyd, staff writerThroughout my tenure as an agricultural writer and editor, I continually hear that ag needs to do a better job telling its story.

After all, many environmental and other advocacy groups have mastered the art of public relations.

Agriculture’s need to connect stems from the general population and lawmakers being generations removed from the farm.

As a result, most don’t understand the complexity of growing, packing and distributing produce.

Many consumers think they can simply go to the Krogers and Publixes of the world, and, like magic, fruits and vegetables will always be on the shelves.

Reaching out to the 300 million-plus U.S. residents can be a daunting task.

But a handful of county farm bureaus are taking a slightly different approach and are courting the messengers — the media — to tell ag’s story.

Over the years, I’ve attended several media nights hosted by the Fresno County and San Joaquin farm bureaus in California.

Each event takes a slightly different approach. But both share the goal of putting growers, packers, shippers, other allied industry representatives and the media in a relaxed setting and having them get to know each other on a more personal basis.

“That’s why we’ve done this for so many years,” said Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to host the individuals we usually see in a more formal setting in a more informal setting. It’s nice to have a casual conversation to deepen those roots.”

The group’s former media night has evolved into an event called “Celebrating Friends of Agriculture,” which also includes others involved in agriculture, such as lenders, lawmakers and suppliers.

At these events, the agriculture industry learns that most of us writers and editors aren’t gunning for them — we’re simply doing our jobs.

We learn that most people in agriculture are a lot like us. They have families, revere the resources on which they rely and pride themselves in using the latest technology to produce safe, healthful food.

Should an issue ever arise, we have someone to call if we need a quote, even if it’s something as noncontroversial as the 2012 crop report.

“We want to be that resource that the media uses to get agriculture’s perspective out,” Jacobsen said, referring to the farm bureau.

“We’re not looking for a biased story. We know there are positives and negatives to stories about ag. But I think it’s incredibly important that we make sure agriculture’s voice is represented.”

And growers and packers, on the other hand, also know they have someone to contact to convey their side.

vlboyd@thepacker.com

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