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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.

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.

The MN Pork Board is part of a group of organizations working together to help people understand where their food comes from. is a website that features eight different MN producers of various products. The incentive for people visiting the website and signing up is the chance for free groceries for a year.

Life is full of contrasts. Because people are 2-3 generations removed from the farm, we as producers need to help them understand how and where their food comes from. On the other hand, because U.S farmers are so efficient, not everyone has to live on the farm and grow their own food, they are free to pursue other careers.

Our family is fortunate that we grow much of our own food. There are meals, especially this time of year, when we can look down at our plate and see that everything we’re eating was grown on our farm. But I’m glad we have farmers in other areas, since I really enjoy eating oranges, especially in the winter time and I know they don’t do well in Minnesota.

The producers I know are committed to growing safe, healthy food for everyone. I would encourage people to visit the website,, to learn more about how food is grown and the people who are doing it.

The world population is growing and as other countries develop, the demand for lean protein like pork will increase. That’s a great opportunity for U.S. Agriculture.