As a rule, I hate made up words, especially if they're created for marketing purposes. I'll give 'ag-vocating' a pass, though, because it's an easy and obvious concoction that does a good job of self-describing what is means. There are a lot of people practicing the craft; some do it consciously, they will tell you that agvocating is what they do. Others do it subconsciously. They're involved in agriculture and they love to talk about it.
Both groups try to engage the urban 98% in discussions about the art and science of farming the land and raising flocks, herds and pens. They write letters, email notes, hang out in social media chat groups. They Facebook, Twitter, Link, 'Pin', Tumble and Flickr.
So let's thank groups like the AgChat Foundation and other agvocate trainers and encouragers. Let's thank practitioners like Michele Payn-Knoper, Carrie Mess (AKA Dairy Carrie), Daren Williams (AKA The BEEFMAN), Celeste Settrini (AKA The Couture Cowgirl), Carrie Oliver of the Oliver Ranch and The Artisan Beef Institute, Sarah Schultz (nurselovesfarmer.com), Brandi Buzzard Frobose (Buzzardsbeat) and Wisconsin's Agvocates of the year, Laura Daniels and Karyn Schauf. If I missed you or your favorite, that's what the comments section is for at the bottom of this column. Please use it to recognize the agvocates you follow.
Recently, USFRA took agvocating a step ahead and turned the social concept into a movie. Farmland is an attempt to agvocate on the big screen and, with luck, reach millions of people who know nothing about where food comes from, other than their local supermarket.
If a weakness to all this work exists, though, it's there is entirely too much Friday afternoon Church time involved. Preaching to the choir does not make for many new converts. Billy Graham ventured out into the great unwashed to preach to the unconverted. Willie Sutton robbed banks "because that's where the money is." When it's time to harvest the wheat, you don't head for the corn fields. You have to seek out a target rich environment - urban dwellers whose nearest brush with farming is a potted tomato plant sitting on the deck.
When it's time to talk with all those city folk about what you're doing down on the farm, you have to go to the city. An agvocate spending time talking with people decked out in cowboy hats and boots needs to re-aim. A suggestion: Borrow Michigan State University's "Breakfast on the Farm" program.
It might have been suggested to MSU's Ag Extension, the group behind these Breakfasts, by a similar long-standing Wisconsin event promoted by the Dane County Dairy Promotion Committee. The 36th Annual Dane County Breakfast on the Farm is scheduled for Saturday, June 14, 2014 from 7:30 am – 12:00 pm at Zander’s Dairy Farm in Mt. Horeb, about 20 miles west of Madison.