The recently held Farmfest Virtual 2020 event held it’s first-ever Farmfest Women in Ag event and award ceremony. The keynote speaker was Sherry Saylor, Chair the American Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee. Her keynote speech, titled “Lead Where You Stand,” offered the “Four C’s” women will need to develop to successfully advocate for agriculture. Her first tip involves composure.
“With composure, organize yourself first, and if you are married or you have children or even from just being in agriculture, you know that you have at some point in your life lost your composure. I want you to think about that for just a moment. What did it look like? Did it have a good ending for you? Was there a good outcome and was it a really pretty sight to lose your composure? Obviously, no, that’s not true, and I think this is sometimes one of the hardest things is to organize ourselves first to stay in control of our emotions, but we’ve got to have that if the public is going to listen to us.”
Saylor said it’s vital to not react in a negative manner when talking with non-farm people about modern agriculture. And after composure comes conviction.
“This might be the easiest one for some of us. I don’t think we’d be in agriculture if we didn’t have conviction and if we didn’t believe we are an essential industry. We are the basic industry that everybody needs. But we need to know our ‘why’s” if we’re going to be effective communicators of agriculture. We need to understand that our values and our conviction have to be shared with the consumer.”
That conviction should always be combined with civility, especially when talking with people who don’t agree with you. Saylor’s next “C” is connection.
“Cultivate your relationships. We’ve heard this many, many times that everything comes down to relationships. President Lincoln made this statement that ‘if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him to be your friend.’ And that is so true. If we can have those relationships built, we can build respect and we can build people that will listen to us.”
Saylor noted it’s never been a better time to connect with people because most of them want to know more about where their food comes from, as well as the people who produce it. Connection combined with some transparency will create trust. And the final “C” is courage, which Saylor says can be the most difficult trait to develop.
“If you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target. And I relate that to us in the agricultural community we find ourselves in because we take a lot of flak, so we must be over the target. Think about the recent things that came out from Burger King on cow flatulence and lemon grass, and we’ve got PETA, we have low commodity prices. And sometimes we have weather issues and government issues, along with the anti-GMO movement, and I could go on and on,” Saylor noted. “We are definitely over the target because we take a lot of flak.”
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