Agriculture activism is important, involves community participation
Big Piney – Montana logger Bruce Vincent noted that, just like the timber industry, agriculture is constantly under fire by the public. In order to facilitate the ability of the industry to bolster public opinion, Vincent noted that agriculturalists must learn to be activists.
“What I learned in the timber industry, I call activism 101,” he said.
“I wish we would have a line item in our business plans ahead of equipment maintenance for activism,” Vincent said. “Budget in one hour a week to advocating for our culture.”
Vincent also noticed that activism, while rural people tend to association with negative connotation, is simply standing up for what you believe in. He additionally noted that activism isn’t easy for many cattle ranchers, because they aren’t necessarily fond of talking in front of people.
Activism, he said, isn’t about picketing or marching, but rather, Vincent said it is about doing an advocacy project for our culture – and it doesn’t matter what, as long as people are being involved.
“We have to become activists and do something in this discussion,” Vincent emphasized. “If we are going to survive, we are going to have to become activists.”
“We have to figure out how to make democracy work,” Vincent emphasized, adding, “It’s not a spectator sport.”
Part of democracy, he said, noting that supporting local politicians or running for office are two important ways to find it.
“We say that places like Cheyenne and Casper run the state,” he said. “But most participatory republics are generally not defined by the majority. They are defined by those by those who form a single issue, multi-sector voting block that stand together to make a difference.”
Rural groups, he said, should band together, and if 85 percent of voting blocks show up, the rural populations can make a difference.
At the same time, Vincent added that Congress has written off rural America, which Vincent also noted was absurd.
“If any other minority segment was stuck in that sentence, the rest of America would explode,” he said, saying, “If Congress wrote off gays or Hispanics, America would explode. The idea that ‘we don’t need rural areas,’ should have mortified us.”
He also added that in order to make anything happen, it is essential to have a plan and a constructive vision of what we want Wyoming to look like in 100 years.
“Paint a picture of Wyoming in 100 years with you it,” he said.
In getting involved and becoming an activist, Vincent noted, “The world is run by those who show up.”
As a result, he noted that agriculturalists must take time out of their busy schedules to be involved and show up.
One way that producers can be an active part and “show up,” said Vincent, is to take a stand on important issues.
“Go to planning board meetings, legislative committee meetings and comment on important issues,” he said, “or take part in writing an editorial for your local paper.”
Weekly newspapers, he added, are read cover to cover by subscribers, and opinions in those papers can be very effective.
In advocating, Vincent marked a simple acronym for the pieces of advocacy that are important.
“We must humanize and be honest, emphasize and educate, lead and localize and politicize and personalize,” said Vincent.
Humanizing the industry is among one of the most important aspects in advocating.
“It is really easy to hate the industry,” he said, “and we’ve already lost the current generation.”
As a result, Vincent added that it is important to make sure people understand that they need industry and to not make it scary.
He further added that the face of agriculture needs to be established.
“We need to take a look at how we are presenting things to the public and make sure we aren’t missing the mark,” he added. “Instead of coming to see a cow, they should be coming to see cowboys or cowgirls.”
It is the faces behind farming and ranching, he said, that are really important.
Honesty is also additionally important.
“We have to address our realities and share them with the public – warts, pimples and all,” Vincent added.
Empathy allows farmers and ranchers to learn what the issues that are real for the public.
At the end of the day, in order to get the ag story out and heard by the public, Vincent said, “We need to get the truth out.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.