Sharing positive conversations about WI agriculture

Crystal Siemers-Peterman
Alice in Dairyland
A white spruce is loaded atop Maizy for the ride home with 70th Alice in Dairyland Crystal Siemers-Peterman.

Traveling across the state of Wisconsin and almost 20,000 miles later, I’ve learned a lot through thousands of conversations with people of all backgrounds. I’ve laughed and cried with people, all while sharing the story of Wisconsin agriculture.

Through these conversations I have had many positive interactions. Ones where you can see that your words are important and making a difference. However, I’ve also had conversations that make me frustrated and upset, ones that I can feel tears building up and my hands beginning to sweat.

After these thousands of conversations, the most important lesson that I’ve learned so far is that a positive conversation about agriculture – no matter how small – is an incredibly important conversation. 

Alice in Dairyland, Crystal Siemers-Peterman, welcomes the crowd to the Governor's Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction on Aug. 9 at the Wisconsin State Fair.

This industry affects every single person in Wisconsin on a daily basis. Whether it be in the form of food, fuel, or fiber, each individual has a direct connection with agriculture. With such an intimate connection to the industry, the public is searching for information on how these products are produced, where they’re produced and who’s producing them. It’s our responsibility to give them answers.

At the Wisconsin State Fair I had the incredible opportunity to give a milking demonstration each and every day with my friends at the House of Moo. From explaining the milking process to ensuring parents that milk is the most wholesome beverage that they can find, I answered many questions. Not once, but twice I was asked which breed of cow produces almond milk. It caught me off guard, but it was an incredible moment to know that my words were important and educational.

The average consumer simply does not know what goes into the production of our food, what happens behind the scenes of a farm or even the tough financial times that many Wisconsin agriculturists are facing going into 2018.

All too often, the negative side of the story is the only page consumers read. This information is made readily available online and through media outlets, where consumers take it as truth due to the fact that it’s the only information they see or hear. We need to change that. It’s time to get one step ahead and proactively advocate for agriculture and share what truly happens on the majority of our family farms, instead of being defensive and just reacting to the negative portrayals.

Crystal Siemers Peterman

It is our responsibility as agriculturists to share our side of the story. This story, however, needs to be told on a daily basis and not just when a crisis strikes. Constantly being on the defensive tends to discredit our message over time. By being proactive, rather than reactive, the non-Ag public will be in a better position to realize those negative stories are the exception, not the rule.

So how can you proactively advocate? It’s as simple as sharing what you see and experience every day in the agriculture field with others. What may be a mundane day for you could be a valuable learning moment for a person outside the industry. Being relatable and taking the time to share the normal activities of what happens on a daily basis- a healthy heifer calf being born or a cow eagerly awaiting to be milked.

The more positive, educational messages that are put out in the open will result in less dependency and acceptance of contradicting beliefs. For every negative message about agriculture that’s circulating, share a positive truth of the industry. Better yet, share two or three.

Make it your New Year’s Resolution in 2018 to share a positive conversation about agriculture in every conversation that you have.