Ask not what your industry can do for you (commentary)

JOHN F. Kennedy famously said: "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

These words were a rallying cry issued by a charismatic young President hoping to renew his country's morale by urging Americans to engage their fellow citizens.

Sound familiar, farmers and ranchers?

How often have we heard similar rallying cries to "open our barn doors" and to "be transparent."

We are told that we need to involve the public, that we need to create relationships and build trust, but just how do we do that?

Often, I'm urged to join industry groups and become an active member to help advocate for our causes. I am told my financial investment will pay dividends, that these groups will work for me!

However, more often than not, it seems like these industry groups are all just the same people, putting on the same events and giving each other the same awards year in and year out. We are perpetually preaching to our own choir instead of trying to grow our flock.

Don't get me wrong; I realize the incredible value and importance of agriculture industry groups. These groups do provide wonderful resources and often do great work in the national political arena, but to truly reach beyond our proverbial choir, we need to get out of our own church and connect to the real grassroots policy-makers: consumers.

For many of us in production agriculture, the desire to give back is greater than the need for industry recognition.

We realize that our way of life depends on the public. We don't advocate for recognition. We advocate for our livelihood, for our way of life.

We understand that involving ourselves with those outside of our industry will ultimately benefit our industry far more so than merely involving ourselves with one another in industry groups.

Most likely, the average consumer — even one who wants to connect with a farmer or rancher and learn more about our way of life — isn't attending these industry meetings or events. Chances are, the average consumer isn't even aware these exist.

That is why we need to get out of our comfort zone. As agriculturists, we need to make it a priority to become involved with non-industry groups.

By connecting with the public on common and personal ground, we will be far more effective in communicating our stories. Then, the face of farming will have an actual living, breathing human attached to it.

Instead of asking each other what our industry can do for us, it's time to start asking what we can do for the industry. Our way of life depends on it.

*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, or contact her at

Volume:85 Issue:42

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