Ag News

Workshops address range of issues facing American farmers

During the American Farm Bureau Virtual Convention, attendees had access to a total of 20 workshops addressing subjects from enhancing Farm Bureau engagement to farm business practices to farm safety to agricultural economics.

Two of them focused on a success story of engagement with a big corporation and approaches to maintaining positive rural mental health.

The Beef with Burger King: When national quick-serve chain Burger King asserted in advertising that bovine flatulence accounts for an inordinate share of methane emissions, Michelle Miller, known as The Farm Babe, knew the notion was overcooked. Miller has a large social media following – 166,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 16,000 on Twitter – and could have immediately cooked up some consumer backlash.

Instead, she reached out to Burger King Chief Marketing Officer Fernando Machado and invited him to her Iowa farm for a tour. With the help of Iowa Farm Bureau, Miller set up tours of nearby feed lot operations so Machado could see firsthand what ranchers are doing to conserve the environment.

“What we’re doing is really cool. What is the next big step? Could the next big marketing trend be highlighting farmers in a really cool way?” Miller asked. “When you dig into what we do, it is really cool and sexy.”

Machado and his team shot video of the tours and produced content highlighting what farmers do.

“It was very insightful for me to see all the hurdles farmers have to go through,” Machado said. “You don’t think about that if you’re not living in that reality - all of the disinformation and people with not necessarily accurate knowledge of what happens on the farm. I think it was positive because we’re portraying farmers the way they really are.”

To see the Burger King video visit https://gfb.ag/BKvisitvid.

Farm State of Mind: Farm State of Mind: It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on people from all walks of life. In the Farm State of Mind workshop, Colorado Farm Bureau President Chad Vorthmann, Wisconsin dairyman Randy Roecker, This Farm Wife Meredith Bernard of North Carolina and Florida’s Marshal Sewell talked about their experiences and the factors contributing to behavioral and mental struggles among farmers nationwide.

The panel agreed that a sustained push for public awareness is a vital part of any strategy to address rural mental health.

“All the different factors that affect a farm or ranch that are completely out of our control,” said Bernard, who does This Farmer’s Wife blog and podcast. “It’s like that constant battle of trying to look in a crystal ball and try to anticipate what’s going to affect tomorrow.”

Roecker shared his story of falling into depression when he reached the conclusion that he would be the one who lost the family farm started in the 1930s by his grandfather. Roecker emphasized being a good listener and maintaining awareness of people.

“You feel like you’re losing a legacy for your children and their future,” he said.

Roecker has worked with his local health department to promote the QPR (question, persuade, refer) concept in the farm community in hopes of prompting people to look out for one another.

“The thing most important to me is just be there and support each other,” Roecker said. “The uniqueness of agriculture is [that we] just [have] to be there for each other.”

If you or someone you know are considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.