Peterson Brother Greg’s Four steps to Successful “Agvocating”

Owen Roberts presenting to a class at Assiniboine Community College at Brandon, Mb.

Got a minute? That’s about all it takes to start thinking about agvocating. You never know where your commitment will lead.

That’s the word from Greg Peterson, the 23-year-old Internet phenom from the mid-Kansas PetersonFarm Brothers. Some of my University of Guelph agricultural communications students and I were lucky to spend time with Greg earlier this week when he visited Guelph, courtesy of SeCan, which likes the idea of present and future farm leaders advocating for agriculture.

Greg, a former agricultural communications student (with a minor in music) at Kansas State University, became an advocate through video. He suggests others give it a try because, in his opinion, it’s a great way to reach broad audiences in unconventional ways (lately, others have done so, in fact, through the contest sponsored by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture).

In fact, he’s quite willing to share salient parts of the recipe that led to what has become 34 million views:

  • Pick a song to parody
  • Find the karaoke version of the song track on the internet
  • Download it to the music software program Garage Band
  • Record your parodied vocals over top the karaoke track
  • Take your song into the field, barn or both and lip synch your track while you record your video on your phone
  • Edit it on your Mac (he usually shoots about two hours of video to get a four-minute song)
  • Download to your YouTube channel…and watch the hits grow!

Despite his video success, Greg says advocacy is broader than one medium.

For example, his second approach to advocacy involves written communications — writing blogs and news stories, he says. Written words that get published endure. Recently, Greg started a blog to go deeper with topics – GMOs and modern livestock farming, among them – than he can through a music video. It takes time, but he says it’s effective for advocating.

His third suggestion? Offer a farm tour. His family farm recently started offering tours, to help people understand what actually happens on a modern grain and livestock farm. He’ll get 50 or so participants at a time.

And finally, one of the things that happens during farm tours leads to Greg’s fourth suggestion: that is, talk to people! Have a conversation. It won’t always be on the farm, but it will always engage people, and you’ll both know more than you did before.

Greg Peterson and Leslie Bowman

Greg Peterson checks out Leslie Bowman’s blog

My agricultural communications students have practiced advocacy throughout the semester. They’ve blogged, written news stories and given speeches. Many of them see themselves as advocates, as do the attentive and engaged students I met today in Brandon, Manitoba at Assiniboine Community College.

The Assiniboine communications and marketing instructors, Shawn Williams and Danielle Tichit, offer their students an opportunity to tweet, write and engage in an assortment of communications exercises designed to help them tell stories about agriculture. In a pitch-a-story group-work workshop, the students told some of them to me and representatives from event sponsors Manitoba Canola Growers – rural road miseries that make food transportation a nightmare, the reason behind rising beef producers and different approaches to poultry production, among them.

And in Winnipeg, another encouraging agricultural communications initiative is underway at the University of Manitoba. There, the 4-H club is exploring how to create a student research-writing program in the university’s agriculture school, based roughly on Guelph’s Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge (SPARK) program which celebrates its quarter-century anniversary this academic year.

Who did I miss? Please chime in below and tell us what you’re doing.

It’s heartening to see this kind of dedication to telling agricultural stories. Remember, think like a journalist — address the “so what” and “who cares” of a story, and the rest will start falling in place.

 

Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts directs research communications and teaches at the University of Guelph, and is president of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists. You can find him on Twitter as @theurbancowboy

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