I was recently asked to speak to the Casper Chamber of Commerce “Leadership Casper” class during their Agriculture day. I had the pleasure of speaking at the same event last year and really enjoyed it. I tried to keep my presentation simple and straightforward both times. Last year, I walked the class through a flow chart following the cattle cycle from the cow-calf producer to consumers. I then explained why beef prices had gone up in the grocery stores and figures showing that cattle producers were still not getting rich because their input costs had also gone up. I concluded with a general, “Hoorah!,” please-don’t-forget-those-of-us-involved-in-agriculture-have-to-feed-the-growing-world, go-hug-a-farmer type finale to my presentation. I thought it went well. After I was done the class had a number of questions, and we had what I felt was a good discussion. Overall I thought the class enjoyed my presentation.
This year I followed much the same strategy – a cattle cycle flow chart followed by Natrona County agricultural statistics that would give the class an idea of the impact of agriculture and the cattle business here locally. I concluded with the same “Hoorah!” ending. What followed was not the same friendly questions and discussion that occurred last year.
It all started innocently enough with a question about where grassfed beef fit into my cattle cycle flow chart, which led to further discussion of grassfed beef and natural versus organic. Then it happened, seemingly out of nowhere – she struck me like a cow kicking a gate – I get lambasted with a question or accusation, I am not really sure which, regarding what one young lady felt was the cold hard truth – that our industry in general, and at the time it felt like maybe even me in particular, was having an unprecedented negative impact on society at large by unjustly treating food animals with hormones and antibiotics.
Looking back now, I know I needed to have facts, figures and a well thought out argument to even attempt to address her deeply held opinions on the matter. I should have tactfully and respectfully tried to side step the issue, maybe even referring her to experts who might be able to offer concrete facts to dispel what I personally believe to be lies spewed out by the various anti-agriculture acronyms.
Me being me – stubborn and somewhat hard headed – I instead just tucked my chin and charged right out into the middle of the minefield. It is all kind of a blur from there. My response was filled with hastily recalled facts that I tried to muster into a coherent argument, which I fear failed to even make a dent in her strong beliefs on the matter.
In the end they did applaud me for my presentation, but I can assure you that in the future I will be more prepared to handle these kinds of topics, if I ever have the opportunity to address a similar group.
I don’t know if any of you have had similar experiences, but I caution you to be ready to address these kinds of topics when you are addressing the general public, regardless of what you are planning to talk about. Hopefully, if you get ambushed the way I did, you will be prepared to defend our industry.
See you down the road,