THE past few years have been an exciting time for those who promote agriculture. "Know your farmer," "buy local" and "farm to fork" have all become more than just catchphrases but actual movements that are increasing in popularity.
For ranchers like me, this has been a golden opportunity to advocate for my way of life, and I have tried my best to run with it.
I have been an active voice in the promotion of agriculture for my entire life — from a kindergartner bringing in artifacts from the ranch for show and tell to participating in FFA through high school and, finally, to the current "open barn doors" of my professional ranching life.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a passionate and tireless champion for agriculture.
Unfortunately, while interest in agriculture and goods grew, so did the spread of misinformation. Due to certain spokespeople, so-called "documentaries" and our industry's own lack of engagement, the average consumer has a skewed view of some of our agricultural practices.
Over the past few years, agriculturalists have been attempting to do damage control instead of educating and sharing or opening our barn doors.
Needless to say, it was not effective. For the first time in my life, I thought all of the work we were doing for agriculture was in vain. I was getting burned out over sharing about agriculture.
Then, something wonderful happened: My passion was recognized by some of my idols. I was urged to maintain the same level of transparency in my writing despite some of the naysayers.
My peers started advocating and blogging and letting me know that my passion had inspired them. I realized that the saying "When you're sick of saying something, others are just starting to listen" rang true for me.
There are no directions or set scripts for how farmers and ranchers should interact and communicate with the general public.
Often, farmers and ranchers communicate differently with those who don't work in their industry. Like every profession, we have our jargon and technical terms.
This difference in communication, coupled with the fact that our industry has suffered many attacks and bad public relations over the years, has made us understandably defensive and wary to be as open as we should be.
But through my efforts, I've learned an important lesson: Though being an advocate for your industry is not always easy and not everyone will be pleased, it is incredibly important that we tell our own stories; otherwise, someone else will.
For too long, the agriculture industry was quiet, and we are still suffering the repercussions.
When you love what you do and advocate as passionately about it as farmers and ranchers do, it can be fairly easy to get discouraged when you fail to see immediate results.
However, we are entering a time when consumers are demanding to know us, to talk to us, to see us. Engage them; embrace this golden opportunity. They are starting to listen.
*Megan Brown is a blogger and sixth-generation rancher who raises Black Angus cattle in northern California. From 4-H as a child to FFA as a teen to receiving her bachelor's degree in agricultural business from California State University-Chico, agriculture has been Brown's lifelong passion. Read more on her website at www.thebeefjar.com, or contact her at [email protected]