Thank you everyone for making my first edition of my blog series “Faces of Ag” so well received! I was hoping to get this edition out a few days sooner, but pleasant weather had me finishing up fencing on the farm. Now the thermometer has dipped pretty low, so it’s a great time to stay indoors and do a little big of blogging. So without further ado, let me introduce you to the December Face of Ag…Amanda Broadhagen. Amanda and I started following each other on social media shortly before we met in person 2 years ago. We were instantly friends, and now text and email each other regularly. I’m so proud to have such a outstanding woman in agriculture as my friend!
Amanda is a a 20-something single, non-married woman that currently lives a dual life. “I have two homes, one in the city and one in the country. I work off the farm part-time in several roles including, as a communications professional for a provincial farm-lobby organization and as a customer service representative at a feed mill near my family’s farm. I am also an avid community volunteer and am currently serving a term on the Junior Farmers’ Association of Ontario board as their Executive Director of Marketing.”
Amanda’s family’s farm is a commercial (cross bred cattle) cow-calf operation. They also grow crops including, corn, mixed grain and hay. Her family farm is a multi-generation farming enterprise. Amanda says, “I represent the fifth generation. My dad and uncle farm together in a full time capacity and I assist during the portion of the week that I am not working in the city.”
Amanda views herself as an agvocate, proud to help narrate the agricultural message through storytelling.
She said, “I think it is important for us as farmers and those involved in the agricultural industry to define ourselves before someone else does it for us and that means telling our story. Though, I think it is important for farmers to remember that telling our story is about encouraging a two-way conversation to take place. It should not be about talking down to the consumer. I have seen this happen, especially in cases when we feel that we are being attacked on an issue, get frustrated and turn negative. I get it. It is hard emotionally when people jump to conclusions about agriculture and criticize our way of life. Despite the overwhelming misconceptions about farming and agriculture as a whole, we as farmers must remain positive, and see these challenges as an opportunity to engage in a meaningful way.”
“I tell my story through a combination of photos, short video clips, and written posts about the things that happen on my family’s farm. I encourage farmers to talk about their farm and to avoid making generalizations. It makes storytelling much more real and authentic when we can communicate about what we do – not about what your neighbor does down the road. Agriculture is a highly specialized business, if someone is asking you questions about chickens, but you are a beef farmer then connect them with a chicken farmer who can best address their concerns.”
When asked, “How do you think producers should communicate their message to consumers,” Amanda said there are many ways. What works for her, might not work best for someone else.
“I have personally found Twitter to be the most effective platform to be able to covey my message, second to Facebook. I am also active on Instagram and Snapchat. I have tried blogging, but it requires a lot of dedication and regular posts. I admire those who do it. I encourage farmers to do as much as they can.”
There are also other ways to advocate through our every day lives. Amanda has had many conversations in taxicabs, airplanes, in the classroom (when she was still a student at university), coffee shops and even on occasion in the grocery store at the meat counter. These interactions are sporadic, random and she only interjects when the opportunity presents itself.
Amanda said, “I also like make a point to take the time a couple times a year to do “beef advocacy” initiatives. Whether this is helping at a booth at The Royal Winter Fair in Toronto or talking to a group of food bloggers at the request of MacDonald’s Canada. These situations allow me to listen and learn about what the consumer is thinking and find out what their concerns are. It helps me keep in touch with the outside world, beyond my worldview perspective at the farm. This year at The Royal, I had a family tell me how much they enjoy eating beef. I thanked them for their support and encouraged them to buy local. My definition of “local” means Canadian. It is interactions likes these that help us bond with the consumer and leave a lasting positive impression.”
Amanda’s Tip: communicate using photos whenever possible. It is easy to say, I care for my livestock, but a photo can show how you do it. I carry my Smartphone everywhere I go and have pulled it out to show people photos of my family’s farm.
Amanda also enjoys taking lots of selfies or “felfies” – farmer selfies because it is fun. She likes to be able to put a face to farming and those involved in the agricultural industry (as she not only farms but also works several other agriculture-related jobs). Amanda made the decision a couple of years ago that she would be a public person and share my passion with others.
“I am what some people describe as a youthful, young woman,” Amanda says, “I like to break stereotypes, especially those about farming. I am a five-foot petite woman and an active participant in my family’s cow-calf operation. I am probably not what most people would think of when they imagine what a farmer looks like. I think selfie taking (within moderation) is a great way to be more relatable to the consumer.”
Amanda’s advice for people just starting in farming or in the agriculture industry in general, never give up on your dreams no matter how hard it might be! Have a plan, set goals, and get a support network. Amanda said, “I highly recommend seeking out a mentor. I did this through the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders Program. Though your mentorship doesn’t have to be through a formal program like what I did. It can be informal too.”
Lastly Amanda said, “True passion is contagious. When you’re genuinely excited about what you’re doing, your enthusiasm can’t help but rub off on those around you. Though I don’t think that being passionate about something is enough – I am of the opinion that you need to express and share your passion with those around you. This is something that I make the time to do through social media, beef advocacy initiatives and in my every day life.”