Something NOT About
Farming or Ranching
by M. P Cremer
March 22 is National Ag Day: A day to recognize America’s agriculturists and the goods they share across the country. The general public may only recognize agriculture one day out of the year, but to agriculturists, every single day of our lives is National Ag Day. I say this because every morning, we get up and work to produce a product involving either clothing, feeding or fueling consumers – and this is pretty dang important. This is not just a task your stereotypical farmers and ranchers do either; it takes a beaucoup of other agricultural roles to make this happen, and that’s what this week’s column is all about.
A quick bio about me and my career path before we go any further: I graduated December 2018 from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s in agricultural communications and journalism. I worked for an agricultural newspaper for a year and a half. Currently, I am the media and marketing coordinator for the Producer Partnership, a Montana non-profit who connects farmers and ranchers directly with those in need by taking in donated livestock, processing the livestock into protein and distributing said protein around the state to food banks. I live on my husband’s family’s ranch and help when I can. I own and operate a freelance media business which caters to agriculture. And to top it all off, I write this column which literally has the name agriculture in the title every single week. In other words: I am the textbook definition of an ag communicator, and I’m more than proud to be one!
Last week, a friend of mine shared a TikTok video with me of a guy asking, “What the heck is a bachelor’s in ag communications at Oklahoma State University?”
The guy halfway poked fun at this specific degree plan (no offense taken by me, I thought it was hilarious), and after some investigation I figured out he does this with all kinds of degree plans he finds online.
This video got me thinking: Does the world really, truly know what I do for a living? Do they know why it’s important for me to have specific training in communication focused on agriculture?
I then thought of all the times I had to explain to people why I didn’t just get a regular communications degree – and “no, ag communications does not mean I talk to cows.”
I preach every single week we need to do a better job of communicating agriculture to the public, had I fallen down on the job with my own corner of the industry? Furthermore, had I even half-way communicated what ag economists do; what ag engineers do; what ag businessmen do? I’m sorry to all my non-sodbuster/cowpuncher agriculturally employed friends out there, but the answer is no – in my 2.5 years of writing this column, I’d never mentioned anything about those career paths at all.
So, I’m going to do a better job of this and today I’m going to start with just a blanket statement of why ag specific degrees are unique.
Ag degrees are similar to regular degrees in the sense the core subject is always communicated. Let’s take ag communications for example: basic communication skills are the same all across the board, the formulas and guidelines for writing a good story are true no matter what subject you’re writing about, and I learned the same tips and tricks about photography as my friends who were regular communications majors. The difference, I found, was in the way ag communications was taught and the subject matter.
At Texas A&M, ag communications was “practice” based whereas communications was “theory” based. This meant I was actually editing stories, putting together school-published magazines and creating a brand guide (logos and graphics) for a company instead of just studying how to do these things.
The other way I felt ag communications was different was in the subject matter we were encouraged to communicate. You didn’t necessarily have to do projects over agriculture, but it was highly encouraged, and I for one found this practice in interviewing agriculturists, designing graphics for them and writing stories about them helpful because ag must be communicated in an almost delicate way.
In agriculture, we deal with narratives which may not be appealing to the everyday consumer – the saying “no one wants to know how the sausage gets made,” is taken figuratively in ag communications, and literally.
People want to know what it takes to feed, clothe and fuel themselves but they don’t generally take interest in the science of it all nor the mess of it all. As an ag communicator, it’s my job to bridge the gap between science and the public; it’s also my job to do it in a way which is quick and easy to understand.
Don’t get me wrong, this is basic communication skills, but agriculture is a beast of its own when it comes to effectively communicating it.
And this is just with communications, the same goes for so many other agriculture degrees out there. I mean, you’re talking about serving arguably the most essential industry here, don’t you think it may require some hyper-specialized training?
I hope, with the help of some friends, I can communicate and educate consumers on just how important agriculturists across the country are serving them day in and day out.
It takes all kinds of agriculturists to put food on America’s table. Whether you’re sitting behind a desk adjusting a rancher’s insurance, programming a pivot irrigation system or hanging a halter up in the tack room, YOU are using your skills to feed, fuel and clothe every person on the planet and you deserve to be celebrated.