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This week I attended a media training event hosted by the MN Pork Board. This exercise was designed to help us become more comfortable in our interviews with the media. However, much of what we discussed was developing our key messages, which are specific points we want to get across whether we’re visiting with the media, the general public or our neighbors.

Mary Milla, our instructor, encouraged us to have “Front of the Box” messages. To help illustrate this point, look at the front of a pizza box. All the things that attract us to that pizza, “thin & crispy”, “ready to eat in 10-12 minutes” or “all natural” are on the front of the box. However, many of us spend our time using “Back of the Box” messages when visiting with consumers or the media. Flip your pizza box over and look at the back. It consists of information such as baking directions, ingredients, history of the company, etc, etc. Generally the information, while important, isn’t all that interesting and can be rather technical.

We in agriculture are instructed to “Tell our Story”, yet when it comes to doing so we often fall into the trap of talking about technical information, using jargon unfamiliar to our audience. Boy, that’s really going to endear them to what we’re doing as farmers…NOT.

Using key messages from the “front of the box” that have a higher impact on our audience and allow them to identify with us closer will help us become more successful speakers. They will remember what we said and not just get lost in the words.

Thank you Mary for all your help. I will never look at the front of a pizza box the same way again.

For those of us that wear multiple hats, which are most of us, introducing yourself at a meeting can be a bit of an exercise. Recently I attended an agribusiness meeting and all the attendees introduced themselves. As we went around the room, I debated list myself as a farmer first, or as an employee of Hubbard Feeds? As the microphone finally made it to me, I went with farmer first, then Hubbard employee, although I ended up stumbling through my introduction and wanting to have a “do-over.”

The whole experience did get me to think about how we view ourselves, especially those of us that have jobs off the farm. I know it depends on the situation, but really how do you view yourself? Who are you?

At the end of the day (and the beginning), I am a farmer. It’s the lifestyle I grew up with and it’s the way I live now. Being a farmer influences my decision making and my values. I have a soft spot in my heart for animals and want to give them the best care possible. I also know that these animals are a source of income for us and a source of food for others. As a farmer I tend to be frugal, practical and sometimes a little skeptical although some might call it guarded. As farmers, we’re in tune with the rhythm of life, the seasons and how nature controls so much of what we do. We deal with life and death and both can affect us dramatically.

Farming may not be glamorous and high profile but it is important as we’ve seen by the increasing interest in knowing where your food comes. Farmers come in all shapes and styles and use a variety of methods to produce food. While there may be differences, there are also similarities. Farmers want to grow crops, raise animals and sell their products so that others can eat. Farmers want to farm. Perhaps more than any other occupation, it gets in your blood and becomes not just your job, but your lifestyle. Yep, I am a farmer.

My daughter Beth has a whiteboard in her room. Every night before she goes to bed, I write a phrase with the letter “B” on it. It’s a fun routine we do that’s meant to encourage her and end the night on a positive note. Recently before an important cross country meet, I wrote the phrase, “Don’t stop “B” lieving”.

How many of us in agriculture need to take those words to heart? Sometimes it would be easier to stop believing. Poor weather, low yielding crops, employees that don’t have our animals’ best interests at heart and organizations that want to demonize agriculture can get the best of us some days. At times it feels like the world is against agriculture. For a group of people that feeds the world, it would easy to stop caring, to stop believing in the positive aspects of agriculture.

But that’s not who we are. Despite challenges, we believe there will be another spring, another fall and another crop. Despite those who say we mistreat our animals, we believe that protecting them from the elements and each other provides the best care and welfare. For those consumers that may not understand what we do, we believe that by telling our story, we can make a difference.

We provide safe, healthy, and affordable food not just for a nation, but for the world. As pork producers each pound of pork we produce uses 41% less water than 40 years ago. We’ve reduced our carbon footprint by 35% at the same time.

Steve Perry had it right. Don’t Stop Believing.

Recently, two events happened that made me proud of my sons and also made me realize they are starting to find their voice for agriculture. The first involved Adam and his response an editorial post he had received on Twitter from the Star Tribune. Dale and I were on our way to Lanesboro biking when Adam called and said he wanted to comment on a post regarding gestation stalls. He wanted to confirm a few facts with me before responding. We talked through the situation and he retweeted his response about animal care and worker safety. I’m happy to say the Star Tribune acknowledged his tweet and recognized the points he made.

About the same time this was happening, we received a picture from Brett showing an advertisement for meatless Monday on the napkin container at the U’s cafeteria. He and I discussed the value of lean protein and the sustainability of modern production. Brett’s comment was “I’ll try to make that a point of conversation sometime.”

I realize these aren’t significant events, but what I’m most pleased with is that the boys are aware of this misinformation and feel compelled to acknowledge and respond to it. It’s a small step, but as their comfort level grows, they’ll have a greater impact.

This past week my son Brett participated in the Pork Ambassador program at Farmfest. I had the opportunity to watch most of the Ambassadors give their presentations in the MN Soybean Association tent. I was impressed by the knowledge these kids had and the ability to talk in public about the most challenging issues facing pork production today. These kids did not shy away from acknowledging that sow housing and the consumers’ disconnect with agriculture are concerns many of them have. While each Ambassador has a little different perspective based on their life experiences, they all had a good understanding of modern production and gave their opinions on what could be done to improve these challenges.

On Saturday my son Adam and I did an Oink Outing at the Hopkins Farmers market. Once again I impressed with Brad, our summer intern and Sarah, our past Ambassador and their willingness to talk to the public about modern farming. Twice now I have watched Sarah interact with someone who started out friendly but then became sarcastic about pig farming. Both times Sarah remained professional and polite and stuck to the issue. Even when these people would walk off with a rude comment, Sarah never lost her composure.

I am so impressed and proud of these young individuals. They are passionate about the pork industry and are eager to find careers and ways to stay involved. I know there are more of these types of young individuals out there and that makes me feel positive about the future of agriculture. We just need to make sure some other industry doesn’t hire them away from us.

I never did a post following the 5K in Duluth on June 21. Sorry about that.

I finished the 5K and did pretty well. I am harder on myself, I suppose, than I should be but I had to walk some of the time. Still over all, I completed my first 5K and I haven’t stopped running!

As a matter of fact, we got home from Duluth on that Sunday afternoon and I started looking on line for my next 5K. That will be next week on July 17th in Minneapolis. I will be running the Torchlight 5K.

I have enjoyed my initial training program to work myself up to the 5K. My goal is to maintain what I have been doing and continue to improve on my time and distance. The added health benefits are something I really appreciate and enjoy.

I love being able to tell people about the healthy aspects of adding more pork to their diets as well. With my job and going to the many different events I am able to let many people know about pork and it’s nutritional value.

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For many of us in the farming community, this spring was challenging to say the least. Extremely wet weather not only delayed planting, but forced many of us to talk about “preventive planting.” We’re now facing the warm days of summer and it is hard to believe that summer is really here and almost half over.

June was a big “pork” month for the Stevermer family. If you recall from my last blog, both Adam and Brett had the opportunity to take part in a couple of agricultural tours through the MN Pork Board. It was extremely beneficial for both boys. Even though they have been exposed to many aspects of agriculture, they still came away learning something new. One thing that made the biggest impression was the use of technology in agriculture. From packing plants to drones to manufacturing, technology helps make agriculture more efficient, sustainable and even safer for the workers.

A highlight for us is our weekend in Duluth at Grandma’s Marathon. This is the fourth year the MN Pork Board has been a sponsor and we now have people looking for us. They have come to appreciate the great taste of pork (especially on a cold morning after a long run) and are also starting to understand that pork is a healthy, lean protein.

There are many great opportunities to learn, for kids and adults, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.

Those of you that have been following this blog know that we like to get our family involved in pork activities. It’s a way to both help them learn more about the industry and to give back to it. This last week was World Pork Expo and Beth and Adam, as usual spent time helping in the Hubbard Feeds booth. In the past their main goal was to find candy at the different exhibitors but now they recognize different companies and what they provide. They also found out that Mom and Dad know a lot of people.

This next week Brett will participate in the MN Agriculture Ambassador Institute. He’s participating as a member of the Pork Ambassadors. This seminar is designed to provide leadership and communication skills to kids who will be representing various aspects of production agriculture. They will also have an opportunity to see firsthand how different types of technology is used in agriculture. This will be a great opportunity for Brett to meet other kids, to learn more about agriculture and hopefully to build his confidence in speaking to others about the truths of agriculture. Since he’ll be attending the U of MN Twin Cities, I suspect he may have a few opportunities to share his farm background with others.

Adam will also participate in the Swine Industry tour later this month. This will give him an up close view of some other aspects of agriculture and since he’s thinking of a career in ag, hopefully will help him decide what he might like to do.

People talk about the future of agriculture and the need to get young people involved. Hats off to the MN Pork Board and other agriculture organizations for putting together these learning opportunities for kids interested in agriculture. Even though some of the kids may not end up with a career in ag, the things they learn will help them be good spokespeople for our industry.

 

This one has me pretty excited – for the first time I ran for 25 minutes straight! No walk break, just 5 minute warm up, 25 minute run, 5 minute cool down. That’s pretty amazing coming from this woman!!

I think what surprised me the most is that I didn’t feel like I was gasping for breath, I thought I would be panting from all that running. My calves really stung but my lungs were fine.

I have 3 weeks of training left. This is going to work out great since on June 21 is the 5K I have entered. I am already thinking beyond this 5K to when is the next one I will run.

I think my daughters and I will sign up for a color run somewhere this fall. They just sound like a lot of fun.

I just need to remember, the William A. Irvin 5K has not happened yet so I need to get through that one before planning for the next one. Here’s to hoping for nice weather for the rest of the week!

I am sorry but I am going to whine a little here!

The rain needs to stop for about a week or so. I know many farmers that do not have all their crop planted and the later the crop gets in, the more likely they will be harvesting in the snow. That does not work very well.

Plus all this rain is preventing me from keeping up with my training program. I do not have a treadmill in my house and I don’t have gym membership so I rely on being able to run outside. I woke up this morning at 5:30 hoping to get out to run, looked outside and it was wet and dreary so I decided not to take the chance. Good idea as 5 minutes later it was pouring rain.

On Sunday morning, I took the chance and ended my run in the rain plus shortened my training by 5 minutes.

I have to admit, I am surprising myself. I actually miss it when I can’t run. Truly never thought I would say those words. I feel better, I sleep better and overall get a kick out of the training that I have been doing. I am proud of myself for not giving up already and keeping up with the program I am using. Every time I reach a milestone it makes me even more determined to complete it.

Ok, so I am done now with my whining 🙂

I hope that overall everyone had a great Memorial Day Weekend! I will continue to work on my training program and keep the updates coming.