Blog 5: Feeding the World or Just Groupthink?

One of the topics we continue to discuss with great passion, is the need for a better message on behalf of  U.S. farmers. The agricultural community is not the only one who thinks so. A story by NPR concluded that the message of “we feed the world” is no longer a message that resonates with the American public. The story cites a survey where consumers were ask if they think the U.S. even has a responsibility to provide food to the rest of the world. Only 13 percent of these consumers strongly agreed. Additionally, the article mentions focus groups where people said that if feeding the world means more industrial-scale farming, they’re not comfortable with it.

I guess I am not surprised by this, but I think most farmers will be. This is a message that agricultural producers announce loudly and proudly. How does this message continue despite consumers not relating to it? Is this a form of groupthink? Agriculturalists like this message; but if the public doesn’t, how do we change it? What did you learn in this week’s readings related to group communication that might offer suggestions to help? Are there theories of interpersonal communication at play here too?

Think about a specific group you are involved with. What symbols does this group use that have specific meaning for your group. Do these carry a different meaning for outsiders in the way the “feed the world” message does? Which stage of Tuckman’s model do you think your group (has) reached? Does your group have the four requisite functions of effective decision-making? How could knowledge of rules and resources help members of your group be more strategic in reaching the goals and objectives of the group?

The theories in the book related to group communication have underlying assumptions that group decisions are better than individual decisions and that some form of conflict (storming, direct discussion of issues, etc.) is helpful for these decisions. Do you agree with both of these assumptions? Why or why not?

26 thoughts on “Blog 5: Feeding the World or Just Groupthink?

  1. I don’t know that I entirely think that the “we feed the world” claim is a result of groupthink. I don’t think that the agriculture community is “failing to engage in the conflict,” I think we’re making a good attempt at combating all that is being thrown our way all while assuming the responsibilities of “feeding the world.” I think the agriculture community takes such a deep rooted pride in that message. As a 5-generation farmer, I certainly take pride in that. “Feeding the world” is our livelihood, for some changing the message may feel a little like taking the importance away from what we’re doing day in and day out. This may just be a good example of unquestioned morality. The agriculture community believes their “cause is just” so there is no need to change or look “off the farm.” Maybe the agriculture community is sitting a little at Knapp and Vangelisti’s “stagnating stage,” we are starting to feel that quiet voice inside of us that is saying they (the consumers) need more from us.
    As an alumni and advisor of my local FFA chapter, I think of the FFA emblem as a symbol that has a lot of meaning for our organization, that for outsiders is just another logo. It might even be a slightly exclusive logo, still appearing to limit our membership to farmers, though we now boast much more than just “cows, plows and sows.” Our emblem speaks about our organization. It’s core is a cross-section of an ear of corn, showing unity, since corn is grown in all 50 states. It displays a national emblem since we are a national organization and a plow recognizing a rich heritage in agriculture and that “without labor, neither knowledge nor wisdom accomplish much.” Since it is the beginning of the school year, I am watching our membership make the transition from storming to norming. There’s frustration and miscommunication and expectations that aren’t understood well, but in a month or two, there will be some really unique unity in our group that makes me as an advisor really proud.
    A lot of my time in groups is facilitating and leading my high school students and student leaders in groups. Whether groups for a class assignment or an FFA officer team or committee, I believe that learning how to effectively share your opinion and voice in a group, then take constructive criticism, mold your idea with another’s to make it better and then share it again to a larger group is a life skill. Conflict develops resilience. Collaboration is an industry skill. Granted, being able to possess discernment to make responsible choices in a timely fashion as an individual is a valuable asset; however, I think that can come with time and life experience. Group communication has to be developed and practiced. I enjoy getting to coach students through that experience.

    1. Janae,

      I can completely agree with your thoughts on being an FFA advisor and the impacts we see with our students through FFA. The growth that we see as educators leaves our hearts happy when they walk out into the “real world”

    2. Janae,

      Your thoughts on working in groups are very insightful. I agree that conflict develops resilience. I truly believe that conflict is the only way progress occurs. As you mentioned, collaboration is also important and serves as an industry skill. Group communication certainly doesn’t come easily, so I agree with your thoughts on practicing that type of communication.

    3. Janae,

      I think you make a good point about “feeding the world” being a point of pride for many producers. I understand this pride, but I think sometimes agriculturalists let that cloud their judgment when deciding how best to proceed sharing our message with consumers.

      I never was personally involved in FFA (my school didn’t have a chapter) but I love what the organization does and stands for. I am sure you heard about, if not saw, the video that circulated a few months ago attacking both the FFA and 4-H organizations. It is surprising to me that people can have such different interpretations of a simple emblem. Perhaps sharing the meaning behind it would educate people about what FFA truly stands for.

      -Rachel

  2. I think that the message that we feed the world still continues to be used because many agriculturalists do not understand that this message is not as effective in today’s society as it once was. I would not say that this message is a form of groupthink as much as it is a message that has been overused and is misunderstood.
    I think that over time, we have used this message so much that it has become a “norm” in society and that sometimes when we as agriculturalists fail to see another idea, we stick to what we know. I do not think that changing the public’s opinion will help this message, but instead I think we as agriculturalists should find out what consumers do care about and begin sending out our message through that point of view.
    I think that we as communicators should focus heavily on the idea of a common goal, like that which is mentioned in this weeks reading. Obviously, we as agriculturalists want consumers to share the passion and knowledge that we have about agriculture. If we can use this drive and passion to work towards the same outcome then I think that we will go a lot further in influencing consumers than we would as individuals. I think that when it comes to talking to many consumers we do not know very well, we have to use the stair-case model of interaction stages to build a relationship with the consumer so that they can trust our opinions and ideas to be at their best interest.
    One group that I am in that I immediately think of is Arkansas Virtual Academy. Since we are an online school, we call traditional schools “brick and mortar.” This definitely has a different meaning for those outside of our school system and many do not view it the same way that we do. I feel like our group is in the performing stage right now because we are trying to perform to the best of our abilities since our charter renewal is coming up next year. I feel like teachers and administration are very focused on achieving out goals this year in order to get the data we need.
    I think that our group do not have the four requisite functions of effective decision-making. We do not really have an alternative plan if our chapter does not get approved so I definitely think we are lacking there. I think that knowledge of rules and resources could help our new teachers to better understand what is expect of them and why achieving this goal is so important.
    I definitely agree that with big decisions that a group decision is normally better as long as the whole group is equally informed and has the same goal in mind. I think that conflict can be beneficial to spurring discussion and making group members think critically about the topic, but I do not agree that it is always better. I think that both depend on the topic and goal to determine which is more appropriate.

    1. Tabitha,

      I agree that the “feeding the world” message has become such a norm that the public doesn’t take it seriously anymore. We need to find a new way to connect with the public. We need to learn not to hold back the truth from the public. We should just learn to meet them at their level, but in a similar persuasive methods as activist groups.

  3. The message of the need to feed the world is one that I feel is still important however on the consumer side is not creating the results that agriculturist would like it to serve. This message would not classify as groupthink in my opinion for that fact that it isn’t because people think that it isn’t true, but simply isn’t engaging the audience. For as long as I can remember being in agriculture classes in high school all the teachers talked about the need to feed the world. This grabbed my attention because as a daughter of a production family I knew how important our role would be in helping us achieve the goal of producing enough food. For those members in society that don’t have that personal attachment to “feeding the world” it has just become some words that they hear about. Creating an emotional tie that consumers can relate to might help spread messages about agriculture in an more positive manner.

    As agriculturalist we share a passion for agriculture, however not everyone has that passion. We must realize that and focus on a common topic that we want to share with the public. In this weeks reading it mentioned focusing more on a common goal. By creating a new message with what we want the consumers to know we as agriculturist are all putting our passions together and mixing that with the interest of the consumer I think the goal would be more easily attainable. As I teach middle and high school age students in agriculture education courses I find a lot of the time they get lost or lose interest in a specific topic in agriculture when they don’t understand. For example if I don’t teach them about the production process of cattle and how they get from being born to a fat steer, they think that their meat is coming from the baby calf. I think this is true with a lot of the consumers is they don’t know what they want to know because they might not have the prior knowledge. So the decisions they make are based off of either a lack of knowledge or care. I realize that this isn’t true in every situation but taking that information and processing it could create a layout of how to create a message to the consumers.

    First the relationship must be made, there shouldn’t be any lines that divide the consumers. There needs to be a personal connection that each individual can tie back to their lives somehow to get the by in of the message. Once you get the interest you must maintain it through engaging messages and topics rather than barking the information at them. I compare it to teaching, if you lecture for an hour with middle school kids verse give them a lab teaching the same concepts, what will that student remember more when they leave your room. For most it is the lab because somehow they made connections with the information as they were interested in the project.

    On the consumer side to the message, I think we need to promote them standing up for their thoughts and sharing them rather than keeping them to themselves. As agriculturalist we then have a better feel for what is happening rather than making assumptions of if they are ignoring the message or just not processing it.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I agree that we as an industry need to listen to what consumers want and think. If we’re going to build stronger campaigns and educate the general public about our industry, we need to be open to what they already know or think.

    2. I absolutely agree that we must create an emotional connection with consumers to better spread our message. That is one way that I believe the “feeding the world” angle can still work. Many people care about starving children around the world. People donate monetarily to that cause all the time. However, when they write the check to “Feed the Children” or whatever organization, they don’t think about where the organization gets the food to feed the children. Emphasizing that specific and tangible aspect of how we feed the world could connect consumers to the real work that agriculture is doing to better the lives of people everywhere. There are many agriculturalist-run programs that donate food around the world, but they often don’t get publicity in non-ag circles.

    3. Michelle,

      I agree with your comment about creating an emotional tie with marketing slogans. What means a lot to us as ag producers doesn’t mean the same as it does to consumers because they share different emotions when it comes to ag. We’d surely have to create something that appeals to consumers rather than what appeals to the producers.

    4. Michelle, I definitely agree with you that we need to be more focused on a common goal. I also think that sometimes we have to think about how we brand ideas in agriculture based on consumer’s personalities. For example, the person that is people oriented and wants to help everyone may be more affected by the “feeding the world” statement verses someone who is more goal oriented and may want to hear more about the innovations and new strides that we are making in an effort to make agriculture more efficient.

  4. The message of “we feed the world” is an important one to producers and it’s factual. I don’t think it can be labeled as “groupthink” because it’s more than just a phrase producers agree on so they don’t have to come up with a better campaign, but I do think it needs to be portrayed to the public differently.
    Agricultural producers do feed the world, but it’s hard for the general public to connect with that. The point the consumers who were surveyed brought up, that “feeding the world” might take more industrial type farms is what should be addressed. In order for them to understand what we mean when we say “we feed the world” they need to understand everything that goes into that. If they are saying that they don’t like the idea of industrial farming, agricultural communicators should build campaigns that show that industrial farming isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
    Sometimes I think agriculturalists omit information when talking to the public because they think that the public won’t understand it or it will be misconstrued. However, I think this is a disservice to the industry because we’re not sharing the real story of agriculture with people and they won’t understand if we don’t try to teach them. Overall, I think the message of “we feed the world” is a great place to start because it reminds those of us in agriculture what our end goal is, but we need to expand on that campaign and listen to what the general public wants if we want to be effective.
    The 4-H program is a group that I’ve been heavily involved in since I was a member myself. I think all four stages on Tuckmans model are present in the 4-H program. As new members join, the clubs must go through a bit of a “forming stage” as they learn how to function with the new individuals and the opinions they bring to the table. With these new opinions, there is bound to be some “storming” but the “norming stage” is usually achieved as well. As a whole, the 4-H program is in the “performing stage” because it is a well structured program with set standards, but since the membership is always changing it continuously cycles through the other three stages at the local level.
    For the most part, I think group decisions are generally more effective than decisions made by one individual. When more opinions are brought to the table and multiple people work through a problem, more ideas are generated and the solution is agreeable to a wider net of people. Conflict is helpful because if people have to justify their opinion or idea, they work through some of the possible problems with it and the final product or solution is more thought out.

    1. Lexi,

      I agree with your idea of combatting consumers’ issue with the “we feed the world” messaging by directly addressing their concerns. I think in agriculture, it is easy for us to assume that consumers will understand how our messaging relates to concerns they are having. However, sometimes drawing a clearer line, as you mentioned, and directly pointing out why industrial farming isn’t bad is necessary.

    2. I agree that “feeding the world” is a phrase that we are to familiar with and agriculturist think of it has just a norm to society. We must come up with a better way or campaign on how we will portray we feed the world.

  5. “We feed the world” is a message that is easy for agricultural producers to announce. I think agricultural communicators have encouraged producers to tell their story more in recent years, and “we feed the world,” is the story they have to tell. From the farmers’ perspective, feeding the world is the most important duty included in their job description. I think this message continues despite consumers not relating to it because agricultural communicators haven’t been able to accurately pin point exactly what message consumers will relate to. So, the default is for farmers to tell their story, and that story involves how they feed the world.

    In our book, groupthink is described as occurring when a group makes cohesive decisions to avoid conflict. Groupthink is also used to describe to occur in small group communication. I would argue that the persistence of the “we feed the world” message is best described as a disconnect between ag communications and consumers rather than groupthink.

    In order to create messages that consumers better relate to, I think we need to directly talk to consumers. The more we can interact with them and ask them questions, the more likely we are to ditch the “we feed the world” messaging and make the transition to something that better relates to the consumer audience we are trying to reach.

    I think Tuckman’s group development theory, the idea that groups move through stages as they develop, could be applied to help with the transition away from the “we feed the world” message. First, small groups of producers could be formed across the country to work on developing a new message. Then, the groups of producers would have the opportunity to work through the stages of group development, which would result in working groups that would be ready to tackle the messaging change. These groups would have time to go through forming, storming, norming and performing while creating a new message. Then, once the task is completed, they would experience adjourning. I have noticed that past groups I have worked with produce greater results when we have the chance to work through these phases.

    Uncertainty reduction theory would also be in play if farmers were to join in small groups across the country. If these producers aren’t given the chance to reduce uncertainty about other producers, they’re not as likely to work well together while forming a new messaging strategy.

    As an undergraduate, I spent a lot of time actively participating in the Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority. We have several symbols that have specific meaning to our group, one of which is giving “emeralds.” In Sigma Alpha, when you give someone an emerald, it means you are complimenting them on something they did well. To an outsider, an emerald just means a jewel and giving someone an emerald takes on a whole new meaning. Similarly, I think in the eyes of someone in the ag industry, the “feed the world” messaging is a way of farmers telling their story. However, I can see how an outsider or a consumer would have a hard time relating to this message.

    My Sigma Alpha chapter is somewhere between the norming and performing stages of Tuckman’s model. Since we have sisters from different backgrounds, I think we have the four requisite functions of effective decision-making. It is easy for us to consider alternative choices since we have several different points of view coming together. We have a good grasp on rules, but if we had better knowledge of resources we may be able to come to decisions more efficiently.

    I agree that group decisions are better than individual decisions and that some form of conflict is helpful for these decisions. In another class, I heard that disequilibrium means that growth is happening. I completely agree, and think that if there was no conflict in decision making, neither the organization or groups would be growing or moving forward.

    1. Brandelyn do you feel as though agriculture associations function as the small groups already? Your perspective makes me think of groups such as Cattlemen’s Association, Farm Bureau, Young Farmers & Ranchers, etc. As far as the functions and performance of a small group, I would think their committees and board members especially function in this manner.

    2. I am agreed about the comments related Groupthink, in our days is more common that we can imagine it, I have seen this suspension of critical thinking often in the academia and in a groups where the is a single person with the authority take control all the decisions. Definitely, there is not a collaborative planning. Members should discuss ideas outside the group, they should consider all the alternatives to options proposed by the participants, also a good idea is invide outside experts into a group to facilitate the communication without any bias.

    3. Brandelyn, I think this grass-roots style small group is an interesting concept. I agree with Shaylee’s response as well; however, I think these groups exist already. Currently, I think the industry connects under the “we feed the world umbrella,” but doesn’t unify. With a more formal small group model as you’re discussing, I would anticipate a more successful attempt at rallying together to develop a more accurate message that authentically reflects the agriculture industry across the nation.

  6. The message of “we feed the world” is one that continues even though consumers don’t relate to it because of a few factors. From an agricultural perspective, most of these sectors of agriculture are connected, which creates a global image of agriculture. As an example, without corn there wouldn’t be feed for cattle, without cattle there wouldn’t be manure, without this manure there wouldn’t be fertilizer. We (Agriculturalists) also know and understand the trading that happens within large scale agriculture and industries. There is a feedyard in Garden City, KS which exports beef to China. While agriculturalists see these points and make the connection of how wide-spread agriculture is, your average consumer is likely not going to have the same understanding when they think about agriculture. I would also agree that this type of thinking would be a form of groupthink. Until someone comes up with a different slogan or campaign to jump on board with, I would argue that many ag producers will likely stick to the same message. Since this approach is not resonating with consumers, it will come down to an innovative solution for coming up with another message. In order to come up with this message, consumers will need to be the primary focus and create something that can be understood by all. This new message will need to maintain a positive face of agriculture in a manner that can be easily understood and in a neutral manner, (i.e. neutralization).

    A group that I was involved in as a young child and up until a few years ago is 4-H. I will use my old 4-H club as an example rather than my time as an agent. 4-H is an organization that is very well represented by the 4 leaf clover. To those who are largely unaware of the organization, the most common interpretation of that clover is farm kids and animals. To those who are involved in 4-H, they know that 4-H started for the rural community kids but has since evolved into all types of projects, activities, and really is for everyone. That evolution is still misunderstood by large majorities of people. My 4-H club reached the performing stage of Tuckman’s stages of group development. This club was established prior to my joining, but we did overcome some conflicts through the course of my 4-H career. 4-H is unique in the sense of forming a strong community sense which makes the norming stage relatively easy to attain. In my opinion, my 4-H club did have the four requisite functions of effective decision-making. Knowledge of rules and resources helped members of my group be more strategic in reaching the goals and objectives of the group because as a youth organization, rules and structure are the foundation to the group. After those are well-established, then groups can more easily come together for the same purpose and goal.

    Lastly, the theories in the book related to group communication have underlying assumptions that group decisions are better than individual decisions and that some form of conflict is helpful for these decisions. I would agree that group decisions are better than individual decisions. An individual may not have thought about a certain perspective when making a decision that another individual would have considered. Conflict, in some situations, helps relationships grow. Without disagreement, there would be little room for conversations which can lead to new innovative ideas. Growing pains are not always bad pains, and conflict is not always a bad thing.

  7. I think the “we feed the world” message continues, regardless of how consumers feel about it because it is true. The United States has an agricultural trade surplus, which can’t be said of any other industry in the U.S. We have some of the most arable land in the world, and people in many countries would suffer nutritionally if they were unable to buy food products from us. As discussed in our last blog post, agriculture leans heavily on a logos approach in their communication, and “we feed the world” is a fact they like to use.
    Additionally, I question NPR’s study. How exactly was the question asked? What demographics/psychographics did they ask? Perhaps people don’t believe we have a “responsibility” to feed the world, and perhaps they aren’t comfortable with large-scale farming, but we live in an age where people are increasingly concerned with international affairs and charity of all kinds, so I have trouble believing that the NPR survey accurately depicts consumers’ opinion of feeding the world.
    I would also argue that although the phenomenon of the “feed the world” message in agriculture displays many “symptoms” of groupthink, it is not truly groupthink. Yes, “feed the world” could be viewed as a display of agriculture’s illusion of invulnerability, unquestioned morality, and stereotyping opponents negatively, however, there is no need for collective rationalization because we do in fact feed the world. Additionally, there are no mindguards in this situation. Agriculture is more than willing to receive new information against them, even if it is just to defend themselves. I would say many of us are in agricultural communications because we have heard many negative views of agriculture, and perhaps even seek them out as an extension of our education. If anything, I think the “feed the world” message is facework, urging the public to perceive agriculture positively because of our humanitarian efforts.
    As I stated above, I am hesitate to generalize consumers into one group that doesn’t believe or doesn’t care that we feed the world. However, if the public really isn’t buying what we’re selling when it comes to “feeding the world,” we could focus more of our messages on things they do care about: their personal nutrition, sustainability, etc, and then focus on feeding starving people abroad as a secondary note. Here, theories of interpersonal communication come into play. As agriculturalists, we often have one-on-one or one-on-small group opportunities to share the story of agriculture, and our interpersonal delivery of that message and relationship with the receiver will make all the difference in their opinion of agriculture.
    I am currently a member of Sigma Alpha Professional Sorority for Women in Agriculture. Even though we are not a traditional Greek sorority, we have symbols, colors, ceremonies, and jargon that have a specific meaning for us. For example, girls who have been officially initiated into Sigma Alpha are called “actives” and girls who are new and not officially initiated are called “membership candidates” or “MCs.” As one might imagine, when one gets a group of Sigma Alphas together, we start using all of our jargon, so an outsider would probably have no idea what we were talking about and would probably be confused. However, what sounds strange (and “cultish,” we’ve been told), is just slang for our group.
    At this point in the school year, Sigma Alpha is in the end of the storming phase (because we recently accepted new members and are adapting to a new officer team) and is entering the norming phase. By the time our big professional development events occur in the spring, we will have moved on into performing. Sigma Alpha regularly cycles like this per year, because we face changes in membership at the beginning of every school year. Regardless of these changes, Sigma Alpha has existed at the University of Missouri since 2002, so the four requisite functions of decision making are well-established due to the group’s history. We know what we have done in the past, so we have a good understanding of problems, very well established goals, several realistic alternatives to our usual decisions, and a wealth of past experiences to evaluate positive and negative qualities of those alternatives.
    Knowledge of rules and resources is critical in Sigma Alpha because we do have set standards, budgets, and expectations for our group decision making. For example, if a member knows that we usually have 100 ag businesses come to our annual symposium, but only 60 members to invite said businesses, she will know that inviting many businesses with which she has connections will benefit the group as a whole and make our event more successful.
    I think that group decisions are sometimes better than individual decisions, but it largely depends on the situation. For example, if a group of college students composed of three freshmen and one senior must make a decision about a group project, the senior may have more knowledge and resources about the class, professor, and college grading system based on their experience and could make a wise executive decision in that case. However, group decisions are often beneficial in meeting the objectives of a cohesive group. I do believe that some form of conflict is helpful for any kind of decision, be it conflict in a group that requires members to see a different perspective or conflict in an individual situation that forces one to look at all sides of an issue they may be facing alone. Conflict pushes both groups and individuals to change their usual thinking, and can often open them up to new and better ideas.

    1. Elizabeth, I didn’t think about questioning how the survey was conducted. It would be interesting to see the raw data as well as the population sample from which they collected this data to see why people may not be connected with the statement “we feed the world.”

  8. I, personally, am surprised that only 13% feels the U.S. should be responsible for feeding the world. Much of the U.S. demographic seems to be empowered by helping the less fortunate, whether it be through missions, or donation (much of which is food/nutrition oriented) therefore this statistic is baffling to me. Even though consumers don’t relate to this message, I wouldn’t classify it as group think, I feel as though it is rooted in morals, however according to our text even morals are susceptible to group think if the group is lead in that direction. I feel that conveying agriculture’s message in a way that gives the consumer ownership could help. Empowering the consumer to take ownership of their food choices through knowledge and relationship with the producer can help eliminate the group think that we often witness through anti-agriculture messages.

    This summer I completed a ministry internship with From The Arena to The Cross Ministries. It is a missions field within the cowboy/agriculture communities of the U.S. I assisted with the production of five rodeo bible camps for teenagers in the four state area (AR, MO, OK, and KS). To the general public rodeo is looked at as a sport, spectator sport, rowdy lifestyle, even animal activists have voiced their opinions about rodeo. However, for our group, we view it as a missions field, an opportunity to teach adults and children involved in the cowboy lifestyle about the lessons outside of the arena, and how we can incorporate our faith into all that we do. I feel as though our group is definitely at a performing stage. Each of us within the ministry know our roles and carry them out well, often assisting one another when needed. I feel the use of resources would definitely assist our group. When producing a camp so much time goes into coordinating facilities, livestock, event instructors, devotional leaders, keynote speaker, food, supplies, etc. Strategic communication with our resources would greatly aid our groups level of performance.

    When I consider group decisions I think it will always be important to consider the integrity of the group leader first and foremost. From there I feel as though group decisions can be a better reflection of the public/general consensus, but only if they are carried out in a non-conforming way, a true democracy is an ideal example even if it is difficult to achieve. I do agree that conflict is helpful, and I believe it is often necessary, as it can help dissipate too much group think, as well as initiate the forming of new ideas or compromise.

  9. I don’t believe the “feeding the world” mentality is groupthink. I believe farmers and ranchers truly do feed the world, but that angle is overused and outdated. Agriculturalists use this because it once worked, but I don’t think it is as effective now as it once was. Consumers are more wary of large-scale farming due to fear tactics used by activist groups. The new theme we aim towards consumers is telling our personal story. If used correctly, this can be a powerful tool. What we, as agricultural communicators, need to be aware of is that many producers don’t have training in how to present themselves and handle conflict that will inevitably arise as a result of sharing their story. Getting our stories out there is fantastic; keeping them maintained is another thing (identity management). Our consumers want us to be transparent, and we should do our best to let them see all aspects of our operations. We should have nothing to hide.

    The first “group” that comes to mind for me is the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry (ASI) at K-State. Our symbol is actually our brand, the flying K. We want to promote this brand as the trademark of our department, signifying trust, knowledge and education. We are in the performing stage of the Tuckman theory. We have a well-established system that delegates responsibilities to the person designated to handle them. I work with the event planner and communication coordinator, so anything related to public perception of the department is pushed our way. We do meet the four requisite functions of effective decision-making, although some we may excel at more than others.

    I do not agree that group decisions are always better than individual decisions. Groups can sometimes fall into the mob mentality and follow one route because that is what it seems like everyone can do. I think decisions vary in all situations, and the “right” decision varies depending on each situation. I do think that conflict makes a group stronger, if it doesn’t tear them apart. Addressing conflict and successfully moving beyond it to continue to solve a problem can result in better decision-making.

    -Rachel Waggie

  10. The message that we feed the world I think is still used today however the consumer doesn’t feel that way and agriculturist are not getting the results the want. This message is not a form of groupthink because the term has been overused to many times. It’s more than a thing of the past now. Instead of focusing on just feeding the world the consumer maybe telling our personal story and were we come from and provide for the world. I agree with Rachel we shouldn’t have to hide anything from the public and show all aspects of what our operation has to offer.

    The first group that comes to mind is the agriculture fraternity Alpha Zeta I was affiliated with while at Fresno State. Alpha Zeta is a honorary fraternity, professional society for students and industry professionals in the agriculture and natural resource fields. This fraternity used all four stages of Tuckmans model. The forming stage is where brothers gets initiated based on academic standing and being an agriculture major. They must learn what it is to be apart of the brotherhood and there standards to be apart of the fraternity. Alpha Zeta is in the performing stage because they are an organization with set standards. The stages are always going to fluctuate based on how many get initiated each semester.

  11. I think farmers and most agriculturalists still believe in the feed the world movement, because it still reigns true. US farmers still export a large amount of the food we produce which in turn feeds the world. Consumers and society as a whole have for the most part stopped thinking about the what is good for us all and just started thinking about what is good for ourselves. There was a time when we all took pride in helping our neighbor. I am not sure why this mentality had to change. I agree that agriculturalists need to adapt more persuasive means of communicating with the public, but that does not mean that we have to stop taking pride in a core piece of the profession.
    I don’t believe agriculturalists believing in feeding the world is a form of groupthink. It’s still true. Just because the public does not want to find pride in it does not mean we have to abandon the truth. Agricultural communicators should start paying attention to how the activist campaigns catch the public’s attention. We can adapt the same tactics to produce a truthful campaign. In order to do this, we need to stop thinking of the public as a group that won’t understand and as a group that wants to learn all they can about their food. Agricultural communicators need to be that source of information.
    I was a very active 4-H member in grade school and intern/volunteer during undergrad. The four-leaf clover with the four H’s, representing Head, Heart, Hands, and Health, are recognized by many people outside of the organization, but they don’t understand what all it really means. Some people will look at it and just see a lucky clover, but it represents a close-knit community that is more like a family to me. That clover represents my future career and being the connection piece between the universities and the people. People on the outside probably relate the “feed the world” message to 4-H because they recognize 4-H as an agricultural organization. I would say my 4-H program at home is in the performing stage. There have not been any large changes in the extension educators or the leaders in Cass County Indiana for many years. I would say that Cass County 4-H has some of the requisite functions of effective decision making. They are good at setting goals and analyzing the outcomes of those goals, but I am not 100% sure they are always good recognizing alternatives. Group discussions and direct discussion of issues in a group are helpful when everyone is participating in a respectful manner. The discussions are helpful when everyone can openly discuss the goals and objectives for the group together.

    1. The message that we feed the world in my opinion it doesn’t have the same impact that it has before, because many factors have been changed and the roll of communicators is now more important than ever. Unfortunate agriculture at the moment is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, requires around 70% of all the fresh water, is a product of habitat loss and high degradation of biodiversity. People are now more aware of agricultural issues, more important, changing diets as the world becomes wealthier as well as more populous require more resources in a big scale, and the most worrisome is that a few agricultural organization are challenging these issues.

      So, that is why the communicator needs to adapt to a new type of agro journalist, a mix of commercial agriculture and the green revolution with the best ideas of organic farming and local food, and with best ideas of environmental conservation. In the US only, the one percent of the people are actually farmers and their voice need to be listen with the precise information and with the use of the right propaganda. Is a big challenge experts predict that the world’s farmers will have to produce as much food in the next 35 years as they have in the entire history of the world to feed everyone and communication will need to be adapting with this trend.

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