Blog 1: Introduction to Agricultural Communication Theory

Thanks for joining me for week one in agricultural communication theory. I don’t want to repeat too much information contained in other places on this website or in the syllabus, so please spend some time on this website this week to find out about the course. I will hit a few highlights. Find your weekly readings here and in your text for the course. For information about how to participate in this blog see the assignments page. View the course syllabus for all other details not included in this blog post. See the welcome page to contact me.

With all of the housekeeping information out of the way, let’s talk about this class. Technology is now more important than ever to agricultural communication, as witnessed by your participation in this course online.  I seek to use new technology to connect with people in my research, personal life, and teaching. My goal for this blog is to make a connection between the general communication theories in your text and agricultural communication while allowing us to discuss the text and additional readings as a class. I want this to be a virtual classroom where we can bring ideas together and learn from each other. In my initial posts I will offer insight into your assigned readings and pose questions to you. I encourage you to bring in your experiences, as we will all have different insight based on our past interactions.

This first week, I would like for us to all introduce ourselves. Share with us your first name, your connection with agriculture and natural resources, why you’re taking this course, and something unique about yourself. I will get us started. I am Dr. Lauri M. Baker. I received my B.S. in agricultural communication from Texas Tech University in May 2003. I then went on to work for the Texas Wheat Producers as their Vice President and Director of Communications for nearly five years. I loved that job and the connections I was able to make with farmers and buyers of wheat. I also enjoyed the opportunity to have interns and share what I knew about agricultural communications. This lead me to graduate school at the University of Florida where I received my M.S. and PhD in agricultural communication. When I started my graduate work, my primary interest was in teaching. However, I quickly started to get excited about research and the understanding it offered related to how people think about and perceive agriculture and the environment. By the time I graduated with my PhD in April 2011 and accepted by first tenure-track faculty position at Kansas State University, I was driven to continually work on research. Primarily, I continue to design research projects to determine how agriculture and natural resources can communicate more strategically with the public and the role new media plays in impacting the bottom line of these industries through the Center I co founded, The Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement.  

Let’s discuss chapter one of your text. Chapter one talks about communication as a basis for human interaction and shared culture. Agriculture certainly has an unique culture. This culture can be a blessing and a concern when discussing agricultural communication theory. Often we see agriculturalists “preaching to the choir”. We love to tell ourselves how great we are at producing the world’s food and conserving land for future generations. It is also a part of our culture to keep to each other when we need to share agriculture’s story with the general public. I have also seen this close culture take on a negative connotation. I have seen some involved in agriculture develop an outward superiority assuming everyone outside of agriculture doesn’t have good values or a hard work ethic. Your book describes this occurrence as a perceptual consequence. This social structure is something we will continue to discuss as we look at ways to apply theory to engage the public in conversations about agriculture. Your book talks about the need for strategic communication, which is a term you will continue to hear throughout this course. Communicating strategically is extremely important when dealing with complex, scientific topics like food policy, biotechnology, and precision agriculture.

When your book discusses social reality as a dialectical process, an agricultural example immediately comes to my mind. We have seen the general public become farther and farther removed from production agriculture, primarily due to technological advances in agricultural science. This has been a challenge in the public’s perceived value of those who produce the world’s food supply. In recent years we have seen a shift. The public no longer wants to be completely removed from food production. The public now regularly expresses an interest in visiting farms, purchasing locally grown items, and even growing some food themselves. This concern also extends to the way animals are handled in meat and dairy products. The public’s concern offers new challenges and opportunities for agricultural communicators, which we will continue to explore.

I would imagine many of you have “lay theories” right now related to why people behave the way they do, I encourage you to continue to think about these. Perhaps your lay theory will work into a research question you can examine in order to inductively create theory, or perhaps as we examine existing theory you realize there is already a related communication theory. You may also began to ask more questions as you learn about new theories. You may end up developing a research question in order to deductively add to theory. I encourage you to continue to question and seek answers. Please share your questions and answers with the class. This is how we will all continue to grow together. I encourage you to use pg. 14- 19 of this chapter as you encounter theory in the book and in your assignments. As a scholar, continue to seek validity for theory.

Now, I want to hear from you. As you read chapter one, what connections to agriculture did you notice? It is ok if you do not have an agricultural background. That will make our discussion even more diverse. What terms and/or theories stood out to you as describing agricultural communication? Can you think of a strategic communication effort in agriculture and natural resources? What challenges do you see to strategic communication in agriculture and natural resources? Also, remember to introduce yourself.

27 thoughts on “Blog 1: Introduction to Agricultural Communication Theory

  1. My name is Tabitha Hudspeth and I am an agricultural communications graduate student at the University of Arkansas. I received my B.S.A. in agricultural education from Arkansas State University this past May and am now the communications graduate assistant for the Dean’s office in the Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas. I have raised and shown livestock most of my life and plan on owning my own cattle herd when I finish with school. I am taking this course because it was recommended to me by my advisor and I am very interested to get a deeper understanding of many types of communication that we use in the agricultural industry. I am also the agriculture teacher for Arkansas Virtual Academy, a public charter school for homeschooled students in Arkansas.

    As I was reading chapter one a few connections to agriculture that I noticed was when it mentions that “communication is the mechanism by which culture is constructed, shaped, and sustained over time and across generations.” This made me especially think of agriculture because of the fact that so many people do not understand how broad the agriculture industry is because for so many years, agriculture was communicated as farming and ranching. I know from a teaching perspective, many of my high school students are shocked to hear that agriculture has so much science, technology, and engineering involved in it. The part of chapter one that discussed writing news articles in hopes to shape reader’s perceptions made me think of agriculture and how often there are articles both for an against agriculture with the hope or persuading readers. Just the other day I saw a video that was talking about how terrible 4H was because students raised livestock to show and then process for meat. The whole goal of that video was to convince viewers that raising animals is a terrible crime and that you should not allow your children to do so. On a note that is less related to agriculture, the behavioral consequences made me think of Chick-fil-a. Because their employees are always so happy and pleasant to be around, their business is extremely popular and many people talk about them. The strategic communication effort in agriculture that immediately comes to my mind is the Agvocates program with Farm Bureau. Through this program, many state’s farm bureaus give awards each year to people for their agriculture advocacy work on social media and in the classroom. Some of the challenges that I see in strategic communication in agriculture and natural resources is breaking peoples preconceived ideas about agriculture, especially animal agriculture. I also think that product labeling with also be a huge challenge in the future. So many people do not understand things that products are being labeled with such as organic, all natural, hormone free, GMO-free, ect. and I think that trying to help consumer understand what many of these labels mean and why many of these labels are not important to food quality will be a big obstacle.

    1. Welcome to the class Tabitha. I appreciate your insight into culture and communication and look forward to hearing more from you this semester.

    2. Tabitha,

      I agree with your thoughts on people’s perception of the broadness of the agricultural industry. There has definitely been a shift in the way people view agriculture, and I think that has a lot to do with a shift in its culture and, therefore, a shift in its communications. The more we communicate broad messages, the more our audience will begin to look at ag as a broad topic, rather than just farming.

  2. Hi! I’m Rachel Waggie and I just started my master’s program in agricultural communication at Kansas State University. I’m originally from Virginia but have been in Kansas for going on 5 years now. I did my undergraduate work here at K-State as well and graduated in May with a B.S. in Animal Sciences and Industry with a focus on business. I grew up in 4-H and have shown cattle for 12 or so years now. I have my own small herd of Red Angus and Shorthorn-influenced cows back home in Virginia. I’m taking this course because it’s required, but also because I know it is going to benefit me in the long run as I start to work on my project.

    While reading chapter one, I made a few connections to agriculture in the text. The biggest thing that jumped out at me was the mention of “buzz words” glass ceiling, sexual harassment and date rape, and how these ideas have existed for generations, but words are just recently being incorporated to collective vocabularies to define them. This immediately made me think of buzz words in agriculture, such as organic, all-natural, GMO or non-GMO, hormones, etc. These are all methods of producing food that have been around for centuries, but are just now starting to draw public attention and become an issue. We all have our own lay theories as to why this is the case, but you are certain to get responses from both sides of the spectrum if you mention any of those words on any public platform (i.e. Facebook). I also believe there is a mixture of sender and receiver perspectives in agriculture. People who actively advocate for agriculture are clearly sending messages to the general public, while there are other unintentional communication channels that result in receiver perspectives. On “ag twitter,” as it has been dubbed, producers from across the U.S., and even globally, talk with one another about moisture levels, crop production, livestock performance, or any other industry-related topic. This has positive and negative effects. From one angle, it provides a transparent platform for consumers to see what is going on in the industry at the “ground level,” if you will, and see that producers are humans, too. On the flip side, because producers are talking to one another and not the under-educated (about agriculture) public, words can lose their meaning and be twisted by someone who doesn’t understand what is actually being said. Jokes can be taken seriously and then passed around as animal cruelty, monster crops, etc. and then we have another “4-H is a terrorist organization” movement on our hands.

    Circling back to the producers that commit themselves to advocating for agriculture, we have many strategic communication channels within our industry. Like Tabitha mentioned, Farm Bureau plays a major role in “agvocating” and has several programs that promote agriculture, such as Ag in the Classroom and #IFarmIVote. Other strategic communication channels include the Animal Agriculture Alliance, Agriculture Future of America, and social media bloggers and “personalities” such as Dairy Carrie (Carrie Mess), the Peterson Farm Bros, Buzzard’s Beat (Brandi Buzzard Frobose), Cows, Kids and Grass (Debbie Lyons Blythe) and countless others. Even The Pioneer Woman is an advocate for our industry, and on such a huge platform as the Food Network.

    The challenge in communicating from our industry are those other strategic communicators that are working against us. PETA, HSUS, Mercy for Animals and other animal rights activist groups work hard to tear apart our industry with shocking accusations and gut-wrenching stories and pictures. Right now, I feel that is our greatest challenge. They beat us to the punch and have an ever-growing network of followers for their cause. Now, we have to continue coming together as an industry to fight back and share the truth about agriculture.

    1. Rachel,

      I thought about those buzz words in agriculture too. I completely agree with you that trying to communicate and educate the general public while having organizations and animal rights activist groups working against us is one of our greatest challenges. Especially in today’s society when people can find anything they want to support their argument on the internet. With the click of a button I can find articles about why GMOs are one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century and articles explaining why if you eat a GMO you will probably die. I think that teaching people how to find fact based articles that are supported with research is so important in an effort to win this battle.

    2. Rachel,

      I completely agree with your point about sender and receiver perspectives in agriculture. I think we, as agricultural communicators, often forget that people outside of agriculture are always watching us, especially in the age of social media. “Ag twitter” can get into some pretty technical topics. Depending on the position of the reader, this transparency can leave a positive impression about the people producing their food or can leave them more confused than ever, their heads spinning with scientific jargon that sounds like it’s being spouted by mad scientists in lab coats rather than farmers in overalls.

      I have seen receiver perspectives be helpful to the industry in one major way: elementary agriculture education. In Missouri we have a program called Ag Ed on the Move, which trains high school FFA members to teach third graders ag lessons for 10 weeks. While these third graders might not remember the exact science of their agricultural lesson (sender perspective), they probably will remember the fun they had doing activities related to their ag lesson, like making butter from heavy whipping cream or pizza with farm-fresh ingredients (receiver perspective). Building this positive association of agriculture at a young age can impact how they think of agricultural messages in the future.

  3. Hi! I am Michelle Goossen and I am an Agriculture Education/Agriculture Communications major through Kansas State University. I graduated from K-State in 2016 with a Bachelors in Agriculture Education and currently just started my third year teaching. I teach at Buhler High School and Prairie Hills Middle School and serve as one of our four FFA advisors at our school. Prior to moving to Kansas I grew up on a farm and ranch operation in Western Nebraska which sparked my love for agriculture. I am taking this course partly because it was required but also to continue my knowledge in the agriculture communications industry as that is my main focus with my masters.

    As I was reading through Chapter 1 of the book I made some connections to agriculture. They are very similar to those of my peers that have mentioned above. “Communication is the mechanism by which culture is constructed, shaped, and sustained over time and across generations.” When I think of agriculture and the relationship it has to this statement about communication is agriculture is something that has been constructed, shaped, and sustained over time. Through many troubled times and through many exciting inventions agriculture has grown to be a solid industry. It isn’t perfect and everyday people are researching and developing ways to make it better but in my opinion even through all the ups and downs agriculture has stayed true to their beliefs and continue to feed the world no matter what.

    Another connection that I thought could relate to agriculture was the statement about perceptual consequences “perceptual consequences include all of the assumptions we make about people’s competence, attitudes, disposition, education, social class.” People everyday make assumptions about agriculture and whether GMO’s are good or bad for you based on the information they see on social media or in the news. This happens with all types of “buzz” topics in agriculture from hormones in animals to pesticides on crops. This can also relate back to the theory that people with higher socioeconomic levels are more educated then those at a lower socioeconomic level because of the availability they have to information. I asked one of my middle school classes the other day, how many of them have heard of a GMO before and about half of the class raised their hands. I then asked them how many thought that they were bad for them, all of the students except about five students raised their hands. Many students hadn’t even heard of them prior to me asking but just made the assumption that were not good for them. This ties into some of the issues that agriculturalist have is getting the information out to people of all socioeconomic levels so they can be educated consumers.

    Some of the challenges that come with strategic communication come from those that are working harder to communicate negative aspects about all areas of agriculture. From PETA to the person posting a status on Facebook that is negative about agriculture, we are always working to increase the image of agriculture to a good image when it usually is all ready there we just have to uncover the lies that are being shared. Tabatha shared a great list of agvocates for agriculture. There are so many that work day in and day out to promote the positive image. As an ag educator my mission is having my students leave my room as educated consumers. I know that not all students will go into a career in the agriculture industry but all of them will be consumers of agriculture for the rest of their lives. If we can continue to produce generations of educated consumers that will be a strategic communication effort because if they build that passion for agriculture they will continue to share it.

    1. Welcome! I enjoyed reading about your connection to buzz topics and look forward to hearing more about how you will connect this work in your classroom.

    2. Hi Michelle-

      I liked the point you brought up about how socioeconomic status can play a role in how people perceive things. I’ve noticed that those who are more wealthy are the one’s who are most adamant that organic, non GMO, and all natural products being better for people. I think a big part of this is because these products that fall into these niche markets are often more expensive. Those who aren’t as financially set are less likely to purchase these products, so I feel like they don’t feel as strongly about these products being healthier.

  4. Hi! I’m Lexi Kiniston and I’m enrolled in the Agriculture Communications & Education program at Kansas State University and I’m set to graduate in December. I completed my undergraduate at Fort Hays State University and graduated with a B.S. in Animal Science and a minor in Communications. After I graduated, I spent 2 years working for Kansas State Research and Extension as a 4-H Youth Development Agent and then I transitioned to my current position as a Water Conservation Specialist with Kansas Department of Agriculture in Garden City. I am originally from Ridgway, Colorado where I grew up on a commercial cattle operation and I was very involved in 4-H, so these experiences combined help me develop a passion for agriculture. This class is required for my degree, but I’m hoping I can learn some things that will help me wrap up on my final research project.

    Reading through chapter 1, I did make a couple connections to agriculture. The most notable connection I made was to the idea of consequential communication. There are so many things in the agriculture industry that can give a negative impression on those who aren’t actively involved in the industry. I thought about a video I recently saw on Facebook from a pro-vegan organization that was “explaining” why 4-H and FFA are terrible programs that instill dangerous beliefs and values in youth. In the video their main argument was that these programs scar kids and leave them with PTSD type symptoms after they have to sell their animals. This involved showing pictures of kids crying with their animals on sale day. I’m sure none of those kids intended to give the impression that this organization was negative or causing them emotional damage. Anyone who is involved in agriculture and see’s these photos understand that it’s a hard, but necessary lesson for youth who want to be part of the industry must learn. To the outside it might look cruel and emotionally damaging, but to the rest of us we see that kid learning to love and care for an animal while also producing a quality product for the food chain.

    I also saw some connection to agriculture reading about the behavioral consequences. In my current position, I work to recruit producers to sign up for water conservation programs. These discussions usually start with me asking what their irrigation techniques or timelines typically look like. I’m always a little amazed at how many producers say they turn on their pivots when their neighbor does. The same is said for planting crops and weaning calves, if they see their neighbors start taking these steps, they do the same even if it’s not what is necessary for their operation.

    I think the biggest challenge for agriculture is to counter the negative and false information that’s being put out there. There’s so many organizations that distribute negative and false information about agriculture and it’s hard to change people’s perceptions once they have an idea in their head. It doesn’t help the agriculture industry there are so many labels put on the items we consume that are misleading to the general public. Examples are “all natural”, “non GMO’, and things like that, that the general consumer doesn’t fully understand and they automatically assume GMO’s or antibiotics are bad.

    1. Hey Lexi!

      This will be pretty neat being in a class together for your last semester. I saw the video that you mentioned, and it made me so mad that people have the nerve to put something like that out there. As we know, you can pick out a 4-Her in a crowd based on the skills that they learn through the program. If the people who made that video could only interact with some of the kiddos who we got the pleasure of working with, then they would see that those kids possess so many qualities that will make them such great leaders. Unfortunately, everyone has their own individual perceptions. I agree with your challenges completely. Most of those examples are nothing but a marketing strategy, but are fooling people into believing that Cheerios were once made from GMOs, even though we know that there are no GMO ingredients in Cheerios. Anyways, have a great last semester!

  5. My name is Brandelyn Martin, and I am an agricultural leadership, communication and education graduate student at the University of Missouri. I grew up in a rural community that gave me a first-hand look into the agricultural industry. I was raised on a “hobby farm” where my brother and I were involved in poultry production and showed pigs in the county fair. My undergraduate major was science and agricultural journalism, which allowed me to take classes in both the College of Agricultural, Food and Natural Resources and the Missouri School of Journalism. This focus on agriculture and communications provoked my interest in this course. In the School of Journalism, I learned in a hands-on fashion and took away a lot of applicable skills. I am interested in now taking a step back and learning more about the theories involved with that communication. While taking my own classes as a graduate student, I also have the opportunity to TA for a verbal communications course, a leadership scholars course and our Missouri FFA state officer class.

    Several connections to agriculture stood out to me as I read chapter one. Early in the chapter, we looked at communication as a common occurrence that happens “in every context where human beings come together.” It was also stated that we tend to take communications for granted. Having several internships in agricultural communications, I seem to have fallen into a very singular view of ag communications. I looked at it more as a job that we do or a task we make a point to perform. However, if I think about communications in agriculture as an occurrence rather than a position or a job description, I begin to realize any conversation about agriculture becomes ag communications, which greatly broadens my viewpoint of that category. Further along in the chapter, communications is referred to as strategic. I think this is very true in agriculture. A lot of ag issues have two sides to them, and most of the communications regarding those issues are constructed with the motivation to sway the receiver toward the sender’s point of view. Whether this occurs through an assigned position or everyday conversation, I think agricultural topics lend themselves to messages with an end goal in mind. This idea also relates to another concept in the chapter, “buzz words”. A lot of the hot topics in ag that cause people to take sides generate many of these buzz words. This is an important realization for ag communications because the buzz words often become second nature to us and are easily used in our vocabulary, but they may be foreign to certain audiences.

    One strategic communications trend I see rising in agriculture is a push for ag companies and producers to better tell their stories. More farmers and farm wives are writing blogs and more companies and organizations are spotlighting their producers. There has been a big switch from talking at consumers to having a conversation with them about what is done on the farm. A challenge with this is the strategic communications push from the other side. There are several anti-ag groups who are telling the opposite story. Their messaging sometimes directly contradicts that of those producers trying to tell their stories. I think it will be interesting to see how ag organizations, companies and producers continually tackle this challenge.

    1. Brandelyn,

      You are SO right about having a singular view about agricultural communications. I’ve never thought of it the way you described, but you have a very accurate point. We get so caught up in our “jobs” as ag communicators that we forget there are communications involved in every aspect of the industry. I also agree with you about having companies and producers tell their personal stories. It’s an uphill battle, but we have to push through and do what we are able to shine a brighter, positive light on our industry than the darkness that is cast over us from those who work against us.

  6. Hello! My name is Elizabeth Wyss and I am a senior Science and Agricultural Journalism major at the University of Missouri – Columbia. While completing my undergrad, I am also working on my master’s degree in agricultural leadership, communication, and education. I was raised in the small, rural town of Russellville, Missouri, where my family owns a meat processing plant and feed store, in addition to a small cow-calf operation. The family business gave me a unique opportunity to see animal agriculture’s many facets, from the feedlot to the display cooler, and helping my family’s customers equipped me with communication skills from a young age. My love for telling the story of agriculture was further developed as an FFA member and has led me to pursue degrees that will allow me to do so as a career. I am enrolled in this course because it is required for my master’s degree, but I believe it will teach me many useful strategies for being a more successful communicator in the future.

    Many ideas presented in chapter one can be connected to agriculture because most consumers’ generational removal from the farm and the new wave of consumer curiosity about their food sources make thoughtful communication more important than ever. Agricultural communication has experienced a rapid change through the dialectical process as people’s relationship with food and food production has evolved through urban sprawl, technology development, and other factors. As dialectal process changes, so must strategic communication. While those theories clearly stood out to me as an agricultural communicator, I also began to consider other theories that didn’t seem to have as clear a connection.

    For example, as agricultural communicators, we would like to think of all of our work as persuasive strategic communications. However, we often forget to factor in the perceptual, behavioral, or relational consequences of our communications. Perceptual consequences on behalf of the consumer can limit the effectiveness of our pro-agriculture messages because the consumer has already made assumptions about the competency of the agricultural industry as a whole. This could potentially be remedied by more focus on relational consequences by agricultural communicators. Using our messages to strategically build a positive relationship with consumers before presenting fact-heavy information could potentially increase the effectiveness of our messages.

    When I think of a strategic communication effort in agriculture, I immediately think of the “Return to Real” advertising by California Milk. This advertising is an excellent example of what many agricultural communications are trying to do: focus on family farmers and combat market changes from other products (in this case, almond milk or other non-dairy products). A challenge with this and other strategic agricultural communications is the vocal opposition. From anti-animal agriculture organizations to the Non-GMO Project, it can be difficult for agricultural communicators to cut through the constant anti-ag noise that consumers hear.

    1. Hi Elizabeth!
      It’s so exciting to have a class with you (even if it’s only online)! I believe that the concept of relational communication/consequences will be at the forefront of what we deal with in our time in industry. The primary movement in marketing agriculture is now marketing the people behind the products, relating them to the citizen that is, as you said, removed from agriculture by multiple generations. This connection is what is now removing (only some) stigmas associated with agriculturalists.

  7. Hello All!
    My name is Shaylee Wallace, I am a first year grad student at the University of Arkansas, studying agricultural communications. I graduated from College of the Ozarks where I studied animal science with an emphasis in cattle production, and minored in communications. I now live in Johnson, AR with my red heeler, Sage. I also work for the University as a graduate assistant in our department where I TA courses and help with the development of leadership workshop content, as well as the development and marketing of our new leadership program. I grew up surrounded by horses and cattle on our fourth generation family farm and hope to continue our family legacy while I continue my pursuit of higher education. I have always been drawn towards agricultural advocacy, because of this I am fascinated by the way society communicates, what shapes our thought processes, how outside influences change the way we develop as a person, etc. My expectation is that this course will provide me further insight to my areas of interest, but more specifically as they relate to agriculture.

    Chapter one throws a lot of keywords and content at you, several of them stood out to me in the way they connect to agriculture. “Indeed communication is so pervasive and so commonplace in human societies that we tend to take it for granted” (pg. 4). In a world where agriculture is constantly pushing forward in technology, producers/advocates often forget one of the most powerful tools they have is right in their pocket. Cell phones keep us connected at all times, however agriculturalists typically forget how powerful this can be when communicating with the general public. For those who are communicating with the public on a regular basis we witness dialectal processes playing out. Changes in legislation, the activity of anti-agriculturalists, etc all influence the tensions with agriculturalists and society as a whole. Because of these tensions, agriculture is transitioning to more strategic communication to relay the who, what, where, how, and why of production agriculture and its practices/sciences. This plays out in the daily conversations we have too, our media content, photos taken… each of these things has the ability to be scrutinized in anybody’s job or personal life, and solidifies the importance of strategic communication.

    The specific word that comes to mind regarding strategic communication is transparency. Producers and companies involved in agriculture are creating a dialogue of transparency to gain the trust of their consumers. By inviting them to take ownership of agricultural commodities as they move from the farm to the consumers use, they are building relational communication with their audiences, and breaking down barriers regarding perceptual consequences.

    On the other hand, this transparency allows society to put negative connotations with different agricultural practices. Movements such as GMO labeling have given the appearance of a food warning rather than just a food label, large farms even when family owned or operated are often referred to as factory farms, or conservationists practicing controlled burns often are misinterpreted to appear as deforestation. This poses the never-ending question, how do you be transparent while battling the misconceptions?

    1. Hi Shaylee,

      I completely agree with you. As we are all striving for transparency in agriculture, there is a fine line we have to walk as agriculture advocates. We are trying to reason emotion with facts. This is not usually possible, because the public will almost always chose to go with what makes them feel better compared to what the research says is right. The general public does not always see the benefit of some modern practices. Most people would look at a sow in a farrowing crate and think she needs more room. What they do not see is how that crate is saving the piglets from getting squished under the sow when she decides to flop down. The piglets have room to escape from the sow and have a safe place to sleep. They might also not understand that the sow is only in the farrowing crate for a short amount of time and will be moved into a pen with more room soon. But, explaining this to someone with little previous knowledge about swine production would be less likely to just accept your word. Many times I have had this conversation with people where they will just tell me I am wrong and refuse to have a civilized conversation. It is a shame, but sometimes transparency is not enough.

      1. Victoria,
        I LOVE this example! I didn’t grow up around hogs, but I did spend an entire summer working over 40 hours a week on my college’s hog farm, you learn a lot quickly. This is a perfect example of perception verses knowledge, and unfortunately why producers are always having to be on their toes about what the public sees.

  8. My name is Victoria Chambers, and I am a master’s student at the University of Missouri studying Agriculture Leadership, Communication, and Education. I graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in Animal Sciences this past May. I was raised in a rural community in north-central Indiana where I was privileged to have first-hand experiences with both row crop and animal agriculture. Growing up my favorite part of the year was harvest. I was always mesmerized to watch the farmers haul all of the crops from the fields and build big pyramids of grain at The Anderson’s. These experiences as a young child paired with my years in 4-H and multiple internships in different agricultural related businesses and organizations led me to Mizzou. In my master’s degree I am excited to learn how to better communicate STEM and agriculture topics to consumers and the general public.

    While reading Chapter 1 I made a few connections to agriculture. Agriculture and the general public relate to each other in a dialectical process. The world of agriculture influences the general public because they are consumers and everyone needs the products being produced. The general public influences the world of agriculture by informing the farmers what types of foods and products they will consume and use. For a long time there was little communication from the general public in regards to how they felt about their food being produced. The agriculture industry became accustomed to this, but something changed a few years ago and the public wanted to learn more. In the beginning of this change, many individuals in the agriculture industry tried to communicate with the public with jargon used in agriculture. This led to many perceptual consequences.

    Perceptual consequences, which are the assumptions we make about another person, have been a major reason why there has been a disconnect between farmers and the consumers. Agritourism companies have emerged as a method of strategic communication to combat this issue. The issue with some Agritourism companies is that sometimes the information they provide to the public is overly simplified. There are visitors who may have more in depth questions than the employees are trained to answer. I interned at an Agritourism company this past spring, and the training they had their employees go through was good, but it was designed by marketing professionals with marketing in mind. The core of the information that the employees had to learn was general miscellaneous facts about their specific farming operations and not about farming as a whole. In this case, it can almost be counterproductive for specific employees to have conversations about modern agricultural practices with visitors.

    1. Victoria,

      I found your last paragraph very interesting about Agritourism. This brought be back to my internship in 2014 where we took a group of 4-Hers to Colorado Springs and took a tour of a World Market. The tour guide had been trained about exactly what to say and ideas that would help them sell all of their organic or natural products. It was interesting when you had a bunch of Kansas kids there who all had ag backgrounds being told that they pump meat full of hormones and antibiotics. We all had a hard time biting our tongues and not fighting this lady about her information, but that’s how and what they were trained to communicate. This is such a huge challenge to the ag industry and I agree with you about it being counterproductive.

  9. Hello all! My name is Janae McMichael. I am a secondary agriculture educator in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I am a product of a generational dairy and poultry farm which is where my passion for the agriculture industry was ignited. It didn’t take long for me to grow a strong desire to impact and influence the future of the agriculture industry which lead my to pursue my degree in Agriculture and Extension Education from Penn State University. I also have a minor in Agribusiness Management and a specialization in International Agriculture. I am taking this course to obviously meet requirements for my graduate program in Agriculture Leadership, Communication and Education through Mizzou, but also because I love communicating the agriculture message – through all its forms. I am looking forward to learning more about the roots and basic tenets of communication in the context of the agriculture industry.

    While reading about strategic communication in Chapter 1, an agricultural reference that came to mind was this seemingly more popular media push regarding women’s active involvement in agriculture. Though we’ve been incredibly involved in our industry for centuries, suddenly we are almost trying to “prove a point,” that we can keep up with the boys. On the flip side; however, I believe that this messages motivation or goal also serves to remind women around the world that we can do it, we can do the hard things and our industry needs us to keep moving forward. This example also presents the same challenges that can be seen in consequential communication in agriculture. It seems as though quite frequently our messages have unanticipated effects; whether positive or negative effects. Too often we assume that our audience knows more, or way less, than they truly do (perceptual consequences). We forget the access to information that today’s society has and then get worked up when our communication methods solicit replies that are frustrating or demeaning. Is there a way to fix this for the agriculture industry, likely not entirely. But we can continue to work to unify our message and tone of voice in efforts to truly communicate effectively.

    Lastly, while reading about relational consequences, I found the statement “repeated interaction with the same people over time results in the emergence of a “culture.” Through common goals and themes and “repeat interactions” on similar platforms in the agricultural message, the industry and seemingly created a culture of the “know your farmer,” “buy local” network. To help combat those challenges I discussed earlier, it could be positve for the industry to take advantage of the ability to create cultures like this to gain support with individuals removed from the farm.

  10. Hi All! My name is Tayla Cannella. I am in my fifth semester of grad school through Kansas State University. I received my Bachelor’s in Animal Science from Fort Hays State University back in 2014. After graduating, I worked for K-State Research and Extension as a 4-H Youth Development Agent. After two and a half years, I closed that door and now work as a Credit Analyst for First National Bank of Syracuse in Garden City, Kansas. I grew up in the small town of Calhan, Colorado on my family’s homestead. We have a cow-calf operation and I was involved in 4-H for my entire life. I grew up around agriculture and have a strong passion for it, which is why I decided to pursue my Master’s degree. Through my job, I am able to work with several farmers and ranchers on a day-to-day basis as we are the only bank in Garden City who still offers agricultural loans. I enjoy the work that I do and being able to continue to be involved in agriculture.

    While reading through Chapter 1, there were quite a few connections to agriculture that I noticed. The first was in regards to dialectical process. If I interpreted the example right, GMO’s have been around for a long time, but they have not been talked about a whole lot because it was not in the dialect. The view and outlook of GMO’s has changed through communication efforts. People can now recognize when someone talks about GMO’s and what that means. Another connection to agriculture was perceptual consequences. Things in the agriculture language mean different things depending on who hears about them. When a consumer hears about hormone treated cattle, they assume that we are pumping animals full of estrogen which is going to harm their children if they eat the meat from that animal. In the agriculture world, it means something totally different and means that those cattle will have better feed efficiency.

    I think that communication efforts related to agriculture and natural resources have to be strategic. Agriculture producers have to construct every message with the goal of educating about agriculture. Unfortunately, PETA has a very strategic way of communicating with the goal of “educating” people about the malpractice of modern agriculture production. This creates a HUGE challenge because it’s us (the ag community) versus them. It will all come down to who has the better strategy when communicating about agriculture.

  11. Hello, My name is Blaire Strohn and I’m a graduate student at Oklahoma State University studying International Agriculture. I graduated from California State University, Fresno with B.S. in Agriculture Communications in May 2017. I was raised in a small town of Paicines, California, where my family owns a cow-calf operation ranch. I am taking this course to get a better understanding on the different types of communication that are used in our agriculture industry.

    While reading about strategic communication in Chapter 1 these concepts can be linked to agriculture because most consumers are disconnected from the farm or ranch making agriculture communications job to be an advocate for our industry. When glancing over these theories some new I must consider using them as an agriculture communicator.

    In Chapter 1 one thing that stood out was how societies communicate through a change called dialectical process. For example, with the dilemma right now of roundup causing cancer. This is going to influence people on what type of pesticide they would use to kill weeds and also are the safe to use. There is many disagreement’s on if it does cause cancer or not. Perceptual consequences assumptions made by the consumer limits what the good agriculture message we’re trying to portray.

    Our job as agriculturist is to build relationships with the consumer which is key in our industry. One FaceBook page I love to follow is My Job Depends on Ag because it’s a community that cares about agriculture and advocating for what is right. Yes there will be anti-animal organizations and non-gmo organizations that have there own misconceptions about us. The real question that is raised how will we continue to fight the fight?

  12. My name is Andrés León-Reyes I am second year doctoral student at KSU in Park Management and Conservation. Born and raised in Ecuador, I’ve been involved in different projects related to conservation of species and natural habitats, as well as tourism. For many years, I’ve experienced first-hand, the importance of communication and the fails and break downs that miscommunication can cause as well as their impact.

    Interpretation has become a huge part of what I do, as I aim to help others to understand not only the different concepts of nature, environment and protection of different locations, but I also wish to relate and generate engagement with them, and by these means to shape the future of conservation.

    Even though, communication happens every day with little consciousness or attention, work done in the field of interpretation requires an imperative understanding of the essentials of the communication process to overcome and prevent different challenges that rise from having visitors from different cultures or different social settings to parks or natural habitats.

    Communication is defined as the process through messaging (both intentional and unintentional) where meaning is created. It is a mechanism that constructs culture and sustains over generations. The use of communication for interpretation becomes the only means by which, people in this field can truly make the difference in people’s appreciation for nature.

    Interpreters must use strategic communication to achieve the goal of generating engagement with others. One of the main reasons why many conservation projects on natural areas fail after funding stops, is because people who have done their implementation, lack skills to construct messages that effectively transmit the benefits or outcome to society. Unfortunately, these kinds of projects can only survive the test of time, as long as the community or the society is involved and engaged with them.

Leave a Reply