As Larry Sailer, a pork producer and pork industry advocate from Iowa City, IA, puts it, “We need to have spokespeople out here.” With that in mind, there are plenty of avenues for farmers to get involved to help spread the agriculture— and more specifically pig farming — story. Producers who would like to become more involved can choose from several state and national outreach program options.
Operation Main Street
Operation Main Street (OMS) was launched in 2004 by the national pork checkoff as an intensive training program that prepares pig farmers to take their message to the streets. This program helps producers across the country upgrade the pork industry’s image starting at the vital local level.
Ernie Barnes, pork checkoff director of producer services, helped recruit the initial class of 12 speakers, and that number has since grown to 1,050 who have taken the pork story to more than 7,200 civic organizations.
OMS speakers felt like they needed a bigger challenge, and in 2007 OMS 2.0 began to help expand the program’s reach to a wider audience, including dietitians and county commissioners, according to Barnes. OMS 2.0 would require more training for the speaker corps, almost all of whom also participated in OMS 1.0. “We needed to prepare them a little bit better for tougher questions, warn them they will be challenged more. We expect them to be better speakers, and they have proven that to be true,” Barnes explains.
OMS 2.0 provides speakers with different speeches geared toward each specific audience they will be presenting to, whether they be veterinarians, dietitians, county commissioners or a group seeking a speech on pork production.
Speakers are given a script to work from, but are encouraged to personalize it with stories and pictures of their own farms.
Not everyone is cut out to speak in front of large groups, and OMS offers a “Neighbor-to-Neighbor” program that will give pig farmers preparation to respond to questions when approached in their communities at church or school events. “We prepare them for how they should respond to questions, but in their own words … something as simple as ‘Here’s a three-minute speech that you can use,’ ” Barnes says.
Barnes expects to see OMS grow, possibly seeing 3.0 down the road. The producers involved have set a goal to get OMS into more schools to present the pork message to students of all ages.
For more OMS information, contact the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-PORK, or Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Real stories from real pig farmers add credibility to an advocate’s message, which is why the pork checkoff recently launched a social media outreach program with that in mind. #RealPigFarming is a social movement designed to create and own the conversation around modern pig farming. The goal is for pig farmers to have meaningful and impactful conversations on social media with consumers about what happens on pig farms. Choosing to tell the story of #RealPigFarming via social networks helps bring consumers and pig farmers together. Networks powered by images and videos give producers an opportunity to tell their story in multiple ways.
The idea is for farmers sharing stories about real pig farming to use the hashtag #RealPigFarming in status updates, tweets, Instagram photos, blogs, vlogs and any other social media update.
In an effort to continue to share what happens on a pig farm, the Minnesota Pork Board (MPB) is reaching out to pair food influencers with pork producers through a new program called Pig 3D.
MPB’s Pig3D identifies three categories of food influencers, according to Theresa Twohey, MPB communications and marketing director.
- Corporate: Minnesota-based companies that deal with food, looking at sustainability, environmental and marketing people in their offices
- Media: Twin Cities media members who have a good following online as well as in their media outlet
- Chefs: Chefs around the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul
Pig 3D, in its first year, was brought about because of the positive impact made by another Minnesota outreach program. “Our farmers felt we’ve done a lot of great work with our Oink Outings to engage consumers and answer some of the questions they have, but [they] wanted to go a step beyond the consumers. They wanted to interact with the influencers, or people who impact public opinion,” Twohey says.
Working with Broadhead, a marketing communications agency headquartered in Minneapolis, the MPB started developing the Pig 3D program in March with farmer training, and identifying eight influencers and eight farmers to pair up to have open conversations. Another component of the program was to provide consumers and influencers an inside glimpse of pig farms. Because biosecurity has made pig farm tours more challenging, videos offer a way to take people inside modern pig farms. Videos of three pork production operations are in different levels of production. Brandon Schafer’s farm near Goodhue, MN, is currently featured on the Pig3D.com website. Dale and Lori Stevermer’s farm near Easton, MN, has been videoed, but that video is not yet released. Wanda and Chuck Patsche’s farm near Welcome, MN, was scheduled to have been videoed in mid-July.
The videos are also available through a partnership between MPB and BringMeTheNews.com, a Minnesota news-gathering and filtering website. “Three-times-a-week stories with the video embedded are posted,” Twohey says. “We’ve seen some really good response from Bring Me The News, both on their website and their social media channels.”