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Everybody has a story…..here’s some tips for telling yours!

By: Shelley Jones, Manager, Agriculture Awareness

October 2016

You’ve heard the line, everybody has a story.  Well, Ag Month is the time to tell yours. But, if you’re like most people, you’re probably not sure how.

Here are some tips I follow, as I craft a food story of my own:

Identify a topic.

The topic could be a challenge, a client success, a personal victory or simply a memorable experience about and around food.

My challenge: I’m a rancher’s daughter and the mother of a 6’ 4” vegetarian.

Match the important points you want to make with a story.

My points: I am a proud Agvocate, whose job is to encourage and support industry and Ministry efforts to help the public better understand what we do in agriculture, and why. So, how is it, that I find myself having to do just that with my own family?! This is truly a test!

Practice.

The best storytellers practice them. You may think they just spit entertaining anecdotes out on cue, but most of them have told their best stories many times - they get better with age.

My practice: I’ve used my son’s choice not to eat meat because of animal agriculture’s contribution to climate change, in a few of my presentations.  I’ve learned something in each delivery, tweaked it a bit, and, improved upon it each time.

Expose your vulnerability.

Be honest, not perfect. Most people want to hear about our struggles and what we did to overcome them.

My vulnerability:  Despite doing this for a living, and telling people they have to do it too, I am having a really hard time convincing my son that he is misguided.  I have cited and sent him research on reduced methane emissions from animal agriculture, referenced our own family’s beef business and how they care for their animals, steward the environment, create wealth, pay their taxes,  give back to their community, and, after all this, still enjoy a good quality of life.

It rips me apart to know that my own son, who spent time on the ranch as a kid, could so unabashedly vilify the very industry that his family put their blood, sweat and tears into.

How could this happen?!

Let’s see.  My son is a university student, a voracious reader and very bright (I’m his mother, I can say that!)  He is politically engaged and would call himself a libertarian.  He thinks of himself as a social activist, and hasn’t had a hair cut in over a year.  My Dad would call him a “hippie.”  I would agree.  He is part of a subculture of anti-establishment privileged kids.

It is this demographic that has lost trust in certain elements of what we do in modern agriculture.

Talking to someone who is a lot taller and a lot smarter than me about why they should be eating beef isn’t easy.  Of course, the mother in me assumes he isn’t getting enough protein, or zinc, or other essential nutrients beef provides. He assures me he is.  And, the agvocate in me just wants to punch him in the nose, or take away his cell phone or send him to his room. It is at that moment that I take a deep breath, and remember all my messaging to stakeholders about connecting on shared values.

Remember to ensure your story has purpose.

Keep in mind why you’re telling the story and to whom. Ensure it is personal, involving you or someone you have a connection with; provide context, so your audience understands the situation; make sure it can be visualized, that the audience sees what you/your characters see; and, ensure it has a clear beginning, end and segue back to the topic.

My segue back:  I’m still working on him. I mean ‘having the conversation with him’ every chance I get.  And, as frustrating as it can be, I have to remind myself that he is an adult, entitled to his opinion.  I need to listen to what he has to say and appreciate the research he has done to arrive at this decision, and respect it.  We still talk.  And, if I can at least convince him to eat grass fed beef, I would consider that a personal victory.

To wrap this up, few of us are eager to hear another speech, or sit through another PowerPoint presentation. But, we are always up for another good story. This October, let’s all commit to telling ours!

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