Minnesota Farmer


Council of Presidents

It is mid February and time again for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Council of County Presidents.

I made my way to the Council of Presidents meeting a bit earlier this year, to get there in time for the Media Training Session.  It is a way for those of us who speak for the farmer to get a bit of a heads up on what to expect when someone sticks a microphone in your face and expects you to have an answer.

We’ve known for sometime now that the people who eat the food we produce do trust the farmer, the problem is that farmers and the consumer do not always speak the same language.  In that end, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (http://www.fooddialogues.com/?gclid=CMvomJ_eka4CFca8Kgod1CfEJQ), has started a dialogue with consumers and is tracking what the consumer wants, and how to best respond to that desire.  We spent some time finding out what they have learned in their study of consumer and farmer interactions.

We were encouraged to use 4 steps to be a productive part of the conversation, they are part of the acronym EASE:

  • Engage, Start the conversation.
  • Acknowledge, Acknowledge people’s questions and concerns.
  • Share, Talk about meaningful details about how you grow food.
  • Earn Trust, Make it clear that you want to earn their trust.

We also spent some time with staff members who handed us some really tough questions which we were expected to answer as if we were in front of a TV camera.  We then talked about the  answers and helped each other learn to do a better job.

After a break for lunch we were briefed by officers of several state departments which have an affect on farming and ranching.  There were spokes people from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota Ag Water and Resources Center, The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Board of Animal Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  We also got legislative updates from staffers of the Minnesota Farm Bureau as well as a heads up on several rule changes that will affect agriculture from regulatory agencies.  All of this so we could learn how to engage in the farmer-consumer dialogue.

The afternoon was over and it was now time to get to work as many members of the Minnesota State House and Senate joined us for dinner.  We did a bit of mingling and got to talk to many of those who are making the laws that affect us all.  Good training for future visits with our elected leaders.

That was a full day.  By the time you drive to St. Paul, attend the meetings and meals and drive home you have spent a lot of time away from home.  Worth it, Yes.  I always learn more every time I attend.  Hopefully I’ll be able to go back again next year.

Michael

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