When we think of things that we have in common, agriculture is typically not the first on that list. The agriculture industry is not defined by a distinguishable bracket of society, but by the importance that is needed for our survival. Without agriculture we would all be naked and hungry! Which is why it’s so important that we share our contributions to agriculture for those who are unaware of the transition from pasture to plate. It is known that ¼ of our Nation’s food is grown in the heartland of California, particularly here in the Central Valley (also 40% of the nation's fruits, nuts and table foods). Knowing that, it’s safe to say the story of Ag is something worth saving. It is an ongoing battle between lawmakers, environmentalists, animal activists and watch groups against farmers and ranchers who are doing their best to provide food and fibers to feed a growing population. We cannot help our farmers and ranchers by continuously turning the blind eye. Typically when policies are being made, they are made by officials who do not have any concept of what it takes to run an agricultural operation. Decisions are being made for agriculture without even hearing what it truly needs! Our farmers and ranchers need voices in their corner that will bridge that gap between producers and consumers. If you and I won’t speak about agriculture to consumers, then who will?
There are quite a few ways that you can get started down your own advocacy path. The action that kickstarted my advocacy journey was joining my local organizations. I started my first public experience with the Young Farmers & Ranchers committee through my local Farm Bureau. YFR gave me the opportunity to plan events and meet new people who had similar passions. It took some time but I figured out my niche and what I really enjoyed. I began volunteering my time simply by asking the local school district if I could present on the importance of agriculture to their students. I also connected with other local agriculturalists for their tips on pursuing this idea. Once I had a game plan and some practice, speaking on agriculture became easy. I gave numerous presentations to hundreds of kids from kindergarten to highschool. I began doing the Farm to You Days and Agventure Days in different towns here in California. Seeing a child’s face light up when he/she realizes the cotton they see growing in the fields they drive past is the same kind of cotton used to make their shirts means everything to me! Each time I spoke in front of students it made me more confident in my advocacy skills. I later joined the local cattlewomen’s association because I felt that was more my calling. It was a committee that was involved in an industry that I was most passionate about. I had learned so much from these women and really started to take my presentations to the next step. I started doing beef by-products presentations and games; let me tell you I was flooded by questions from students, teachers and even parents. I was really showing others just how important our beef industry was. People were amazed that beef by-products really are everywhere.
Before covid hit I was becoming a motivational speaker for ag careers to high school students. I was encouraging students to get jobs in the agriculture industry. Showing them that you do not have to wear boots or listen to country music to pursue a career in it you just have to have a drive and a passion!
I was not born in the ranching industry but, as you can tell, I am very passionate about it. I can remember all the way back to when I was a kid. My dad would take me to work with him on the dairies and I fell in love with cows but I never knew what to do with that love. As I got older I started to figure it out but I wish at a young age someone told me the opportunities that were out there in this industry. It would have saved me a lot of time and guided me to exactly where I am today. Looking back, I realize just how many doors have opened up for me. This advocacy journey has introduced me to people who have helped me grow as a speaker and as a person. I have made life-long friendships I’ll cherish forever.
Overall, it took me joining a public relations committee to get started in these conversations about agriculture. This industry is not defined by a certain group of people but instead by those who understand the importance of its existence. So don’t let the word ‘intimidation’ be treated as anything more than motivation. A wise woman once told me, “The most intimidating thing is what pushes you the most.”- Cindy Tews. It is those who stand up for what is truthful and right that make an everlasting difference in our society. Speaking on behalf of California's agriculture we need YOU and we need YOUR VOICE. Our livelihood depends on it.
Ideas on how to get involved:
- Join Young Farmers & Ranchers
- Join CWA (California Women in Ag)
- Join local CattleWomen or Cattlemen’s Associations
- Join your local Farm Bureau
- Search out a mentor & shadow them
- Jump in! Get involved. Meet people. Ask for help!