My adult life has been spent telling stories, and the majority of that time has been spent telling agriculture's stories to an agriculture audience. It has not been uncommon over that time to hear from my readers that my publication of the time needed to tell the story of the plight of the farmer, whether it be low prices, drought or livestock disease du jour.
My comeback has always been, we do tell those stories, but in working for an agriculture, and now swine-specific, publication, I have been preaching to the choir for almost 30 years. Sure, anybody can call up NationalHogFarmer.com and read what we have to say, but for the most part our audience is you, the pig farmer who is living and breathing the good, bad and ugly of hog production.
We can help tell your story to consumers, but you need to tell your story. Consumers want to hear from you, not an industry mouthpiece such as National Hog Farmer. But just how do you reach the American consumer as they are ever-changing and becoming further removed from an agrarian way of life?
It also can get more difficult as you have been told there are different ways to tell your story or to show what U.S. pig production is all about. Simply going about your business of raising the safest, most healthy pork product in the world isn't enough. That story needs to be told to the consumer, or maybe even more importantly, it needs to be told to those who are not, and maybe never will be, pork consumers.
We’ve heard, club them over the head with science, because that is black and white. But then they get blinded by science.
So we divert away from science and tell them our stories. Even better, a little bit of science (in the form of technology) allows producers to virtually open their barns up to consumers and non-consumers alike. Remove the curtain that hides OZ to show them there is no great omnipotent guru, just great pork producers.
Regardless how producers tell or share their stories, there will always be people who want more.
Sometimes it is best to lead by example, and to simply have conversations. Most people would rather be spoken with than spoken to.
Dale and Lori Stevermer of Easton, Minn., have been pork industry advocates for quite some time, with Dale admitting they really don't have hobbies, other than what they do to promote pork. The Stevermers were recognized as the Minnesota Pork Promoters of the Year during the recent Minnesota Pork Congress
"I don't really like that phrase 'tell your story,'" Lori told the audience during the awards program. "I like the phrase where we share our values and our experiences, and we find those common interests and common grounds, because those have been some of the most rewarding and enriching experiences I've had."
Telling consumers how and why you raise pigs the way you do will only go so far. But if you show them how and why you raise hogs the way you do, you may find that information gap is being bridged between being misinformed and finding common ground.