Celebrating FFA…

The reality of our future rests in the hands of our youth.  The success of our country, our food supply, and our sustainability will be shaped by their contributions.  Last week was National FFA week, and I received a request from an Indiana FFA officer asking me to place her “guest blog” on Feed Yard Foodie in celebration of the next generation of farmers.  It is an honor for me to do that.  I hope that each of you enjoys Annalee’s thoughts and will share support for her in the comment section 🙂

The 2016 National FFA Officer Team: Annalee is the middle young woman...

The 2016 Indiana FFA Officer Team: Annalee is the middle young woman…

As Indiana FFA State Officers, my team and I have gone through many trainings. We learn about facilitating conferences, working with sponsors, and working together as a team. However, you might be surprised to know the most valuable training we have experienced this year was training on how to tell stories.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.

For thousands of years, humans have been passing stories on to one another—stories of wisdom and failure, of heroes and villains. Why are stories so effective? Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have found that stories stimulate different parts of the brain at the same time. When a story is being told our brains track each aspect of that story. We literally immerse ourselves in the world created by the storyteller by creating the setting, characters, and sensations in our own minds.

I find this information very interesting, especially for people involved in the agriculture industry. Oftentimes, the agriculture industry is on the defensive. We have to defend our practices, motives, and ethics constantly. The main thing we like to share in this defense is factual information—statistics, studies, and surveys. We hurl fact after fact at the American consumer; hoping, eventually, they will catch the information and absorb it. In the mean-time, the opposition goes straight for the emotional jugular, sharing erroneous stories of abuse in slaughterhouses and poisonous chemicals being leaked into our water supply.

I don’t believe this battle can be fought with facts alone. Agriculturalists must utilize the power of the story.

  • Our stories show our values.
  • Our stories show we are human.

Oftentimes, we are told to take the conversation as far away from the emotional side as possible. Why can’t we mix the emotional with the factual? If they hear your story first, people will be more likely to accept your facts. In this Age of Information, anyone can access the facts in seconds. The sheer amount of data available is astounding, but it’s also incredibly overwhelming.

In this sea of information, the only thing floating is stories. So get out there, and share your story. It’s easier than ever. We have so many mediums to communicate through—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat. Type out your story and post it. Don’t have any of those things? Talking is great too. Talk to people everywhere you go—the grocery store, the mall, at work, at family reunions. You may think your story alone won’t make a difference, but it will.

We all love a good story. It’s in our DNA. We have an innate need to share our experiences with others. This is what makes us human. It’s not something we should run away from, but embrace. During National FFA Week and for the rest of our lives, my teammates and I will be telling the story of agriculture and FFA.

What story will you tell?


Filed under Farming, Foodie Work!, General

7 responses to “Celebrating FFA…

  1. Jeff

    Very well written and a microcosm of our society in general. I imagine when the opposition first began their ‘propogandized’ assault, the food producers reaction was probably a lot like what mine would have been…”is there really that many ‘misinformed’ (editing for content) folks out there? So the explanation is: “here’s reality, here’s where we fit in, and here’s how it all works together.” Delivered in a straight forward, monotone method, with the thought that surely, rational folks will ‘get’ this. Not so much in today’s world, with 30 second news blurbs, the accuracy of which is questionable, that sets the tone.

    Yes, the story of the producer has to be told, the emotion and connection has to be included, that with the facts is unbeatable, as long as there is the commitment from the current and future producers. That’s the ‘Foodie’. The involvement of the next generation beyond the Foodie household, and the willingness to share the story is a dose of fresh aired reality that we need more of.

    • I always enjoy your comments, Jeff. I hope your crew is doing well! Keep thinking and sharing– we need folks to come up with answers and ideas so that we can move forward in a positive and effective way.

      Take care,

  2. Mike

    Jeff mentions the 30 second sound bite and it’s ability to influence regardless of it’s questionable content. Sensationalism always works better for those that push propaganda than sound science. In FFA and 4-H, youth learn the difference between the sound science of today’s agriculture and the sensationalists view of the evil farmers. Being vocal and “telling the story” is the only way to educate the oft-times misinformed.

    • Yes! Yes! Yes! The challenge is packaging the story in an interesting enough way that people will listen and engage. The story of agriculture has nothing sensational in it, so one of our greatest hurdles is getting people to pay attention to the truth. I did a video at my feed yard last summer and it is close to being finished. I am looking forward to putting it up on the blog site and seeing if “my story” is interesting enough for folks to share. I am very proud of the 7 minute clip and think that it does an awesome job of “telling my story”. I hope to be able to share it in the next couple of weeks — you’ll have to tell me how I did!

      Keep up the good work!

      • Jeff

        I completely agree that packaging the story is the key. I completely disagree that the story of agriculture has nothing sensational in it. To me, the whole thing is sensational, from a historical / industrial standpoint, as far as invention and efficiency. Of more relevance, today, it is still a sensational activity. Agricultural is a yearly example of the”circle of life” and that circle directly touches the life of every single person living in the U.S, and likely the world in some form or another. While not sensationalized tabloid fodder…that is sensational IMO. Packaging the story is the key. Your work here, does that. The work of thee Petersen brothers and others do that too.

  3. Sally Gibson

    As I high school English teacher, I am impressed with your blog. I especially like your comments about storytelling. I am Anne Burkholder’s mother. She is very excited about young people like you. Best wishes. Sally Gibson

    • Great comment, Mom. Thanks for sharing 🙂 I thought of you when Annalee asked me if she could “guest post” on the blog site. It reminded me of all of your high school English students!


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