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.