Changing how we've always done it (commentary)

AGRICULTURE is an industry where stoicism is revered. Media perpetuates the myth that cowboys are cold, aloof and uncommunicative; just picture the lone cowboy riding off into the sunset.

Often, our online advocating presence reiterates these labels by using cold science instead of a blend of affable emotion and fact to attempt to tell our stories. After all, being emotional in an industry that values indifference is a challenge.

Why is that?

Often, emotions are viewed as a sign of weakness or fragility — a trait of the powerless.

Since online advocacy is a fairly new concept, there are no set guidelines, no scripts, no "right" way, but we are slowly learning what our rivals already know: that plain fact and science do not influence consumers as much as a personal connection, emotion and passion.

Typically, women are better at expressing their emotions, making them the perfect online ambassadors for agriculture.

Women are also currently more active on social media platforms than men. Websites like Pinterest and personal blogs have become major factors in how women communicate and interact with brands and businesses, both within agriculture and in general.

In the agriculture industry — where "that's how we've always done it" still echoes in meetings, offices and stockyards — a young, emotional, female voice can be easily dismissed and discouraged.

Many old-school advocates have not realized the power social media wields in our society, especially when done with empathy and sensitivity. The opportunities missed because of this ignorance are hurting agriculture.

For women, working within the historically male-dominated world of American agriculture can be a challenge.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Census of Agriculture," women own only 14% of American farms. However, women do make up a huge portion of the agricultural workforce, having become active in all facets of agriculture, from production to sales. This lends them the credibility, passion and knowledge needed to share their points of view.

Agriculture-related blogs that give truthful and personal glimpses into farms and ranches are, more often than not, written by women and read by women. Marketing wisdom holds that women control nearly 80% of Americans' household spending. Concerned women, confused about the various marketing claims being made on their family's food, are looking to learn more about their food sources.

As many agriculture advocates urge consumers to "vote with their dollars," connecting with these women in a more personal way could drastically alter agriculture's landscape.

By harnessing agriculture's most powerful emotional assets — women — to reach out to our most powerful consumers — women — we can slowly start changing how agriculture is perceived, advancing from cold and stoic to warm and passionate, from having something to hide to being open and transparent.

The question, though, is: Are we willing to change how we've always done 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:86 Issue:16

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.