You know her. She’s that sassy woman who is extremely articulate, rural to the core, has the most amazing networks, gets the insurmountable done with apparent ease as she shares information and builds an ever-expanding understanding of agriculture. Oh yes, and along the way she owns her own authority and celebrates the accomplishments of the group with a mighty fine congratulatory drink where everyone feels valued for their contribution to rural Australia. Yep, we have many of these women in our communities. Indeed, you might be one. And who is she? She is an agvocate. A what….?
An agvocate is an advocate for agriculture. They are people who commit to using a variety of communication modes to help the general public understand how food and fibre is produced, and to learn about the high standards and professionalism which primary producers engage in when producing their products, as well as showcasing how the land, animals and other natural resources are valued and cared for in the process of production.
We live in a country that is one of the most urbanized nations in the world, with 89% of our population living in urban areas. Yes, that is correct – 89%. This means only 11% of our population has a direct connection on a daily basis with primary production…………and even that direct connection might be one of an urbanized ‘rural’ experience. How many people know a farmer? How many Australians really know what is happening on the farms and properties throughout our nation?
This disconnect means that misunderstanding and possibly misinformation about food and fibre production is very real. This disconnect is demonstrated on a daily basis in our mainstream media. Think about the vast misunderstandings that exist in the thinking with a variety of environmental, animal welfare and primary production methods in Australia today. How effective are rural Australians – and indeed rural women, in getting our messages across? Indeed, do we get our messages across? And if we are to, how will we do this?
Social media is the answer. This is the media tool that each primary producer and rural woman should be putting down the fencing pliers and hopping off the harvester to go and share a story about how great agriculture is. We can all agvocate (from our rural locations) to urban people on a regular basis. We can stand up for our industry, our families and our communities. This will build relationships with a wide range of Australians. We can connect by extending the courtesy of listening to others when they speak, sharing views and asking questions.
How do we know social media is the answer? Social media starts conversations – lots of conversations. Quality online relationships begin with listening, and then they move to engagement, and finally action. As rural women agvocates, we need to listen to what people are talking about, what their interests and concerns are, and how they view agriculture. Then we need to engage with people and that includes engaging with the critics. When agvocates do this, they need to be authentic, informing, friendly and transparent in order to build trust. They need to share photos and keep people up to date with what’s happening, how and when.
So the question remains – how does this agvocacy really reach 89% of urban people? There is something known as the 1:10:100 rule of user generated social media content. For every one person who creates content (yep, that is you, the rural woman agvocate), ten share it and one hundred view it. This means that if you are in an agricultural oriented meeting, and you decide to tweet / blog / facebook (insert your favourite social media tool), there will be 10 people who forward this on to someone somewhere, and one hundred will view it. That is one hundred people who have now read your words. How powerfully engaging is that? And you can bet your elastic sides that this is what that sassy woman you know is doing right now.
I invite you to consider how you might manage your use of social media tools to ensure that you are agvocating for rural Australia on World Rural Women’s Day 2015.