WOOSTER, Ohio — A couple students’ independent study project culminated in a presentation that reached more than 20,000 people Tuesday evening — in at least some form.
Sam Wildman and Amanda Wagner, students at Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute, introduced three well-known speakers during a farm advocating event called AGvocating: How producers tell our story.
The event was covered live by several Twitter users, and was recorded on video camera.
Moser, who serves on the 13-member board, said a lot of diligent progress has been made and encouraged students to get involved by attending a meeting.
He held up a draft copy of the new standards, a thick document which contains the work of 20 board meetings, 54 subcommittee meetings and thousands of public comments.
The board hopes to have the standards in place by mid-July, he said.
But the work’s not over, he said, because “standards are ever-evolving and never finished.” The board will continue to review and reevaluate new information as times change, and continue meeting at least three times a year.
Moser said agriculture in Ohio is a $107 billion industry employing nearly one million people, and college students play a critical role in its future and the state’s economy.
“You’re going to be going into the most important industry the state’s got,” he said.
The evening continued with a talk on animal welfare issues by Leah Dorman of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Center for Food and Animal Issues.
Dorman also has been active at the livestock care board meetings, and reminded students of the realities facing their industry from those less familiar with farming — especially livestock husbandry.
Dorman presented her PowerPoint presentation “We’re not in Kansas anymore: Animal rights vs. Animal Welfare.”
She showed the many ways radical rights groups are trying to equate animals and humans, and how some organizations have misrepresented animal agriculture with a few bad examples.
“Animal abuse is unacceptable,” she said, but so is “using emotion to override the science” about livestock farming.
She shared several examples of activists using the Internet and participating in media publicity stunts to misrepresent agriculture.
She told students their own voices are important tools in representing the truth, because no one knows farming better.
“There’s nobody better able to tell the story of agriculture than the people I’m looking at right now,” she said. “Where you folks aren’t talking, they’ll (activists) be happy to.”
OFBF Communications Specialist Dan Toland wrapped up the meeting, continuing to stress the importance of farmers using social media and making their message public.
Unlike wealthy organizations — such as animal rights groups — users of social media can communicate their message free and independent of wealth.
“The Internet is the great equalizer,” Toland said. “People can communicate no matter how much or how little money they have.”
Same thing, different approach
Toland said social media is nothing different than what humans have done for generations — communicate and converse. They’re just using a new way of communicating.
He showed how tools like Facebook, Twitter and blogs can be used to promote a farm or farm business. When these things are used, they show the company’s unique characteristics and help “brand” it as something special.
Users of social media are “building their personal brand,” he said, and their live resume.
When farmers use these tools, consumers begin to “see the face behind whose producing their food,” he said.
About 70 people attended the event. Most were students, but some also were farmers and representatives of local farm businesses.
See Sam’s blog post about this event here.