It only took one unpleasant experience speaking with individuals at a casual dinner party to realize I needed to make a change in the way I approached socially and emotionally charged topics related to agriculture.
Initially, the conversation was amicable, with thoughts and ideas freely exchanged. But, when I mentioned that conventional and organic milk have the same nutritional value, oh my, did that set one of the guests off on a tirade against conventional farmers. I felt I needed to match her level of hysteria – and I easily obliged!
Nothing positive was accomplished through that exchange and it left me feeling upset and angry with myself for not maintaining my composure. I missed a fantastic opportunity to at least give some thoughtful, calm insight about how every type of farmer cares for their animals and monitors the quality of milk they produce.
I decided to get help and get help fast! I needed to only look as far as my Farm Bureau.
I began to participate in training events that offered resources and genuine hands-on experience in how to relate to people’s concerns regarding how their food is produced. I learned why I needed to keep my emotions in check, how to listen first, ask a few key questions, then calmly and factually share how we care for our cows and crops on our farm.
It took some practice, but over time it became easier to control my emotions. I could tell that people really were listening even when they didn’t completely agree. I no longer dread an encounter or embarrass myself.
When passion for your livelihood meets leadership training and preparation, there is no limit to what opportunities are available.
With so few of us producing our nation’s food and fiber, it is critical that when we have opportunities to engage with our non-farming friends, we do so in a manner that has the best chance of transforming their view of modern agriculture.
State Sen. Sine Kerr (R-Ariz.) is an Arizona Farm Bureau leader and partner in Kerr Family Dairy. This column is adapted from an article published in Arizona Agriculture, Arizona Farm Bureau’s monthly publication.