The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) is launching a new program to encourage and provide support for Farm Bureau members to advocate for agriculture in their own communities.
The program, called Farmer Advocates Reaching Main Street or the "F.A.R.M. Team," is designed to provide farmers and others involved in agriculture with the information and tools they need to engage the non-farming community about the diversity and innovation of today’s farmers within their own communities, said Laurie Johns, IFBF public relations manager.
The program will support members’ efforts to communicate with consumers about agriculture through a range of platforms, including building impactful, informational local events, learning how to talk about changes or innovations in agriculture with the non-farming public, speaking at local events, writing letters to the editor or supporting agriculture on social media, she said.
"Our focus is to encourage engagement by our members at the local and county levels in whatever way is comfortable for them," Johns said. "It’s no secret that fewer people today have a connection to agriculture, even in our rural communities. There is a clear need for farm advocacy today, and we know that farmers are best at telling agriculture’s story and consumers find it more credible when that message is coming from people they know.
"We believe the F.A.R.M. Team will be a great vehicle to help amplify our members’ voices in their communities. Everyone, regardless of their experience, can have a positive impact," Johns added.
The focus of the F.A.R.M. Team program will be to provide enhanced and customized training to fit the unique needs of county Farm Bureaus, Johns said.
"Some counties may just need help establishing a partnership and getting support from a local non-ag group, or others may need training and confidence to have members speak at local civics clubs. Maybe they want help setting up a booth or starting a fun activity at the local farmers market," she said. "And some county Farm Bureaus may want to drill deeper on some issues that are important in their communities, and they need to know how to approach media on a complicated issue."
The F.A.R.M. Team will replace the IFBF Speaker Corps program, which provided members training to answer media calls and share perspective on critical issues.
"Providing members with the information to address media calls remains very important for us," Johns said. "But the F.A.R.M. Team program will help us reach beyond the media to build support and trust in our members’ communities. We believe helping farmers promote agriculture in their own communities will help us address trust and transparency issues that consumers have at the local, state and national levels."
The inaugural, comprehensive session of F.A.R.M. Team training will be Jan. 21-22 at the IFBF headquarters in West Des Moines.
In addition, county Farm Bureaus can request shorter, customized on-site training focused on specific skills or issues. The IFBF public relations team will travel to that county to deliver the training to members interested in building their consumer advocacy skills.