May 13, 2016

The Voice: agriculture-style

Any “The Voice” fans out there?

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The Voice is a two-time Emmy Award-winning vocal competition show in its 10th season on NBC. In this show, celebrity judges - Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Pharrell Williams and Adam Levine - choose the contestants they feel would fit best on their team then coach them throughout the season with a series of battle rounds, knockouts, live playoffs and the finals. To get on a celebrity judge’s team initially, the contestant must have a “blind audition” where the judges cannot see the person singing, only judging on their voice.

This “blind audition” reminds me how people often identify with farmers and ranchers.

On the show, the judges can’t see who is making the sound until they choose to turn around. Much like that with food production today, food-eaters don’t know much about where their food comes from unless they “choose” to know.

Sure, they hear about certain production practices from their neighbor or fellow MOPS mom or maybe a relative. But until they really choose to know and look up the facts for themselves, they are just in a blind audition.

Farmer and ranchers are just as much involved in the “blind” part of this. Part of it is our fault. For a long time, we didn’t do a good job of sharing about what we were doing or how we were doing it. It’s our own business, right?

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Right, but it is also the food-eater’s business. They want to know about their food – who raised it, where it came from, what was put on it, how it was processed. They don’t want to come in blindly and just assume it is safe. And unfortunately, some groups in agriculture try to pit one form of production over another – which really confuses the food-eater.

So – let’s come together and make it easy for the food-eater to choose to learn more about modern food production. Here’s how we can learn from The Voice and use a few of their tactics:

  • Blind Auditions: sometimes food-eaters haven’t heard both sides of the story. They are coming in blind to a situation where they know little about an issue involving modern food production, yet they feel passionate because of who told them about it. Explain to them where you are coming from and how you know what you know. While face-to-face conversations are ideal, social media is a great place for this. You can get personal while sharing on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, videos, Twitter, etc., but it also allows for one-on-one conversations and questions. (see our blog series, Social Soil, about how to use these social media tools!)
  • Battle Rounds: conversations around food can get heated. It’s a very personal issue that EVERYONE is affected by. Try not to get into a debate with someone, but simply give them the educated-information for them to make their own choice.
  • Knockouts: you know you’ve knocked it out of the park when you’ve been able to open up someone’s perspective towards modern agriculture so they can see why you do what you do, and become a champion for you. To help achieve this knockout, make sure you are prepared with personal stories about your farm and ranch. Hitting that emotional string is a powerful and relatable one.
  • Live Playoffs: get in front of a live audience. Many civic groups, schools, moms groups and more need speakers for their events. So speak up and volunteer to share about what you do to raise food. You’ll be surprised at how rewarding it is.
  • The Finals: our end goal in advocating for agriculture is to share what we do and why we do it so that we are known for what we do – not what others say we do (or don’t do). This needs to be a part of every food-producers business plan. You won’t have a business if you sit around and wait for someone else to share your story. The truth is, it is already being shared and not by the right people. Keep the sustainability of your farm or ranch in mind with this issue: step up, get out and share your story.

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