National Grange Youth Ambassador
Cassidy Cheddar, 2014-15 National Grange Youth Ambassador
We all know the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives; it provides us with food, clothing, and shelter that we would not be able to function without. But just because we know about it, doesn’t mean that everyone else does. I once assisted with a program where fifth graders rotated through stations about food production. I was amazed how much they didn’t know about agriculture. Some didn’t even know milk comes from a cow. Through interacting with these kids, I realized I had taken this so much knowledge for granted. I also realized that we have a grand tool for spreading the word about agriculture: advocating.
Advocating for agriculture may seem like a daunting task; it doesn’t have to be. Programs like the one I attended can reach a huge audience and make a large impact. However, you can spread the importance of agriculture throughout your daily life and involvement in the Grange. It can be as easy as striking up a conversation with a stranger about where their food comes from. Or it can be more in depth, such as an event in your town set up by your local Grange.
My home Grange hosts a coloring contest for June is Dairy Month with the local library every year. We set up a display in the Children’s Library explaining why dairy products are important. If a child checks out a book, they receive dairy paraphernalia such as erasers from our local dairy association. Kids can then color a dairy related picture that is hung for display in the library. At the end of June, judges choose winners for the contest and we invite them to an awards ceremony. Here, Dairy Princesses present programs and the children are rewarded for their efforts.
This type of event helps promote why a certain branch of agriculture is important in a person’s life. Many adults know that dairy can provide better nutrition to improve health. However, since this event is targeted towards children, the younger generation are able to learn the importance of the dairy industry at an earlier age.
If you do choose to establish an advocacy event, begin by finding a need. You may notice an aspect of agriculture that is misunderstood or is not thought of as important. From this need, you can create a clear message of what you want people to learn from your campaign. Maybe it’s that dairy is a good source of nutrition and therefore the dairy industry is very important. Whatever it is, a clear message will help develop your plan of action down the road.
In addition, identify your audience. Every audience will have a different set of background knowledge and motivators. By narrowing your focus a bit, you can tailor your message to what your audience wants and needs to know. Your audience may already know the basics of agriculture. It might be helpful to bump the intenseness of the information up a notch. But if you want to reach a wider group or one that isn’t as familiar with the topics, keeping it more basic will be helpful.
Your audience also affects what an effective delivery vehicle will look like. Not everyone will find the same type of implementation useful or engaging. In our program, we were tailoring our activities towards children. Because we had this main audience we could choose a specific method of delivering our message that works for kids. In this case, that method happened to be a coloring contest. Even though the children may have been the main audience, we have others as well. Adults who were accompanying the children or even just passers-by would have been able to view our display. Because of this, the display contained pamphlets that were aimed towards both children and adults. Try to think if you would have any secondary audience members. Then you can spread the word to even more people at the same time.
It might seem like there’s a lot to think about when planning an advocacy campaign. You need a message, clear audience, and effective delivery method. And, these aspects will all change based on your situation. However, have a little bit of fun with it. You’ll be engaged while advocating. And if you are, chances are, your audience will be a lot more receptive of your message as well. Even if you decide not to plan a whole event, try sharing your story. Even that one little bit can help a lot of others.