Home > Agvocate, American Agriculture, California Farmers, Know a California Farmer, Social Media > Yahoo and Agvocating…Time To Look In The Mirror

Yahoo and Agvocating…Time To Look In The Mirror

I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief at some of the responses coming from some in the agricultural community in regards to the article in Yahoo News that listed the “College Majors That Are Useless.”

I am particularly disappointed when I see individuals who are “teaching” others how to utilize social media to agvocate and individuals who have attended training’s, react in such a way.

This article and the one last May were wonderful opportunities to respond in a positive manner and encourage dialogue and conversation on the topic.

However, what ensued were multiple comments, tweets and responses on Facebook that were little more than shouting and bragging…not productive.

Essentially, many of those responding were doing and behaving in the very same manner that they themselves complain about. Rather than rise above the riffraff, and respond as agvocates, or ambassadors for agriculture, they chose to sink to the same level as those who belittle and condemn agriculture in whole or part.

Agvocating is about building bridges between people, growing communities based on respect and understanding and nurturing those relationships to last for generations.

Shouting about how wrong someone or some article is merely closes the ears of those we are trying connect with.

There is a quote that I use when giving presentations on using social media by Sydney J. Harris: “Two words ‘information’ and ‘communication‘ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.”

The actions displayed yesterday and even continuing today are not actions that encourage communication, bridge building or growing communities.

I realize that some folks who read this will probably feel slighted or offended. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to take a look in the mirror, re-read what you have posted and written in an objective light and ask yourself this question: “If I were a supporter of the article, would I want to engage in a dialogue with this person based upon their response?”

I often find myself checking the mirror…and I don’t always like the reflection 🙂

It is fine to disagree with articles and posts, but let us all keep in mind that there is more to be gained by responding in a manner that encourages dialogue and conversation, not a manner that causes armor to be worn and weapons to be raised.

  1. January 20, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    While I think it’s great ag banded together to accomplish something, I agree with you. I’m not sure this the best “something” we have to offer.

    When I first noticed some of the responses on Facebook they reminded me of past responses to filling stations, wine , etc. when they do something we (ag) don’t agree with- bombard the Facebook page of the ____ and write scathing blog posts to call in the troops.

    I too think we can do better and I agree with your statement, “Shouting about how wrong someone or some article is merely closes the ears of those we are trying connect with.”

    On the flip side, what do you think we could have done to lead a more productive conversation? Do you think the Facebook posts/pages could have been made but just in a different “tone?” Do you think the posts and tweets should have been made but with a focus on dialogue?

    I’m not being sarcastic at all, I really want to know your opinion. If you could do me a favor and give me a real tangible list? I would really like to learn from this.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 20, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      Thanks for commenting Jodi! I’ll put together some thoughts and post them soon…have a sick boy and some cows to feed still 🙂

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 21, 2012 at 8:03 PM

      I went through presentations and notes I have accumulated over the years and here is a list of the top 25 suggestions to help people have positive and productive discussions, conversations and dialogues. Hope they are what you are looking for.

      1. If something you see or read causes an immediate positive or negative emotional response, pause. Read it again with an objective point of view. Compose your response. Read your response through the other person’s eyes. Ask yourself how you would respond to what you have written.

      2. Honestly do your best to see things through the other person’s eyes or point of view.

      3. Begin conversations with praise and genuine appreciation for something that they did, do or said.

      4. If someone is in err, bring it to their attention indirectly (a challenge in social media).

      5. It can be very effective to recognize related mistakes you have made, prior to discussing a perceived mistake on their part.

      6. If you are ever wrong, admit it immediately and ardently.

      7. Take a genuine interest in the person you want to converse with.

      8. Your first response should be friendly.

      9. Smile with the language that you use.

      10. Get to know the persons real being and interests and remember them.

      11. Encourage the other person to talk about themselves.

      12. Be an active listener.

      13. Try to use terms that are of the other person’s interests.

      14. Sincerely attempt to make the other person feel important.

      15. Remember, there is only one way to win an argument, avoid it.

      16. Always respect the other person’s opinion. You do not have to agree, but to say “You’re wrong,” is a sure fire way to end a conversation.

      17. Find a way to get the other person to “yes” at least two times, early in the conversation.

      18. Shape your conversation so that the other person does more of the talking.

      19. Lead the conversation in a way that the other person feels that your idea or position is their own.

      20. Be considerate with the other person’s views and ideas.

      21. Appeal to higher values and nobler motives. Make them feel honest and fair.

      22. Challenge the other person to excel in what they do.

      23. Ask questions that lead to desired action, rather than giving direct “orders.”

      24. ALWAYS look for a way to allow the other person to “save face.”

      25. Continue to follow a person’s work after a conversation and look for opportunities to commend them on future work.

      • January 22, 2012 at 5:11 AM

        I think that is an excellent list and reference Jeff. Thanks for sharing!

        • commonsenseagriculture
          January 23, 2012 at 8:52 AM

          My pleasure Darin…remember, it’s about building bridges, growing communities and nurturing relationships that lead to healthy dialogues.

      • January 23, 2012 at 8:50 AM


        Don’t know how I missed this. You know what? I asked for a real tangible list- and you gave me one. Thank you. I will probably copy this and put it into a word doc. Just as a reminder!!! Thank you again 🙂

        • commonsenseagriculture
          January 23, 2012 at 8:53 AM

          Anytime Jodi 🙂 You are more than welcome 🙂

  2. January 20, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    I’ll admit, my gut reaction (and the related Facebook post) was one of an unproductive nature. I should have known that with the week I’ve been having, the negativity would outweigh logic and that I should have avoided responding. For that reason, I pulled my sharing of the link on my own Facebook upon reflection of the message I was sharing. When the reactions started, I was very supportive, but as the day wore on and I saw more and more people engaging in such…unflattering…responses, it just didn’t sit well with me.

    If we want to generate a better image and reputation for agricultural education in the U.S., we need to take a positive and communicative response; last night Janice and I had a good conversation about what we’re really trying to achieve here. Simply having a job isn’t proving anything. It’s the value that the agriculture community’s experiences and education bring to society as a whole that matter.

    Rather than simply brag about having a job, why don’t we consider the value that these jobs add to society? I know my place in this is a little skewed because I do NOT have an ag degree, but I feel like there’s definitely changes to be made.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 20, 2012 at 11:11 AM

      Always appreciate your thoughts Kelly. Thank you 🙂

  3. January 20, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    Sounds like the author of the “useless majors” blog was just doing a school paper. I think Mr Levine did a good job of pointing out the opportunities of an ag education. I myself never study this, but am grateful that I have learned by doing. I know how, and do,grow veg., and have a variety of fruit trees.I can fish, and throw in some hens for eggs. It might not sound like much,but I won’t go without food. I’ve always loved reading about cities that have community gardens. I think giving people a place to do this,and learning to grow food to feed themselves all year, is better than one Thanksgiving dinner. We need educated people to show the way, we always will. I’m sure if our young author thinks about it, he’s intelligent enough to come to the same conclusion. If he’s just talking about the benjamins, yeah there are jobs that pay more, but you still have to eat.

  4. January 20, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Jeff, Those of us in agriculture know that all of us expressing so much frustration at an obvious slap in the face were well-intentioned. I think the same can be said of those we generally see as critical of us and the practices we use, etc. For me, I think beyond looking in the mirror, we need to, as a community, have a take away that we should think before responding. For me the same messages if they were sent to a defined group of people with common backgrounds, etc is venting. The way some of it appeared in the public eye was likely either prideful or mean-spirited. We are much better than that and if we can take that lesson away, our next round will be far more successful in getting people to see the real story. In this case, it is ag degrees that continue to further production of our food, feed and fiber in environmentally responsible ways. I salute the men and women with those degrees and put my journalism degrees on the line to draw more attention of the incredible work they do every day of the year.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 20, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      Several great points JP. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  5. CRG
    January 20, 2012 at 11:03 AM

    I’m lost. What did the article say that people were all up in arms about?

  6. January 20, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    I missed the original article, What is the link to “useless……”?

    • January 20, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      Sheesh! I have work to do right now…planning an AG CONFERENCE….will talk later about this!
      Thanks for the link!

      • commonsenseagriculture
        January 20, 2012 at 11:16 AM

        You are more than welcome 🙂

  7. commonsenseagriculture
    January 20, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    For those who missed the article, here is the link


  8. Bart
    January 20, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    You are completely correct….those of us in the agricultural community need to be not sink to the levels of those who are trying to bring us down, rather we need to present the facts and show the true side of agriculture. Information and communication are the key as was stated, but the communication must be done in a welcoming manner and not fighting fire with fire, so to speak. Agriculture has traditionally been a quiet laid back community who did not impress our thoughts on others, but in todays society the agricultural community can no longer be silent or we will loose all credibility and those who know nothing about our profession will continue to spread untruths about what we do.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 20, 2012 at 2:12 PM

      You raise some good points Bart, thank you. I would add to the “no longer be silent” statement. We also need to be more participatory, or willing to listen and participate in communities outside of our “comfort zone.” We can not expect “them” to come to us, rather, we need to open up to the idea of going to them. IMHO 🙂

  9. January 20, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    Okay, Jeff. You’re right. But you take all the fun out of being snarky which I am really good at. Which is why I am very proud of my own post in response to yahoo’s article that is fact driven sans snark. Well except for the sentence about Chicago. I couldn’t help myself. It’s because of all the pentup frustration that I can’t be responsible for.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 20, 2012 at 2:28 PM

      I can completely understand your feelings of frustration at some articles…it’s normal. I also feel it is important for us to take a minute or two, when we read something that elicits an emotional response, whether good or bad, and compose an objective response that invites continued dialogue.

      Thanks for sharing Judi. Enjoy your weekend 🙂

  10. January 20, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    My thoughts while reading that article were “Well, if you want to be an accountant, then getting a degree in agriculture would be a poor investment of your time.” Ironically I have two degrees – sports management and criminal justice. While both very fine degrees, they are useless to me, because I want to get back into cattle ranching. “Useless” depends on perspective and circumstance which can be said for most things. The statistics used were a bit dated, and it read like the author was taking a pretty narrow view of job opportunities in agriculture.

    While those of us involved in agriculture know there are ag careers ranging from ag communications to shipping ag products to ag law to processing ag products to ag education and everything in between, a lot of times that isn’t as apparent to those who haven’t been as closely linked to agriculture.

    My sister is in college. She likes agriculture but isn’t sure she wants to go back to the ranch. So I said, “What about agriculture communications or ag journalism?” (She likes to write – so do I apparently?) She got pretty excited about it, and I think she’s viewing agriculture in an entirely different light – and she’s a ranch kid!

    Great points here, Jeff. Thanks for sharing them.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 20, 2012 at 2:34 PM

      Thank you for sharing!

  11. January 20, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Well I think there were enough good things to come out of the whole episode to go forward with and make it something better. People should take the info of what degrees people have and how they contribute to the nation and blog that way. Aren’t the majority of our states listing agriculture as the biggest industry? There’s got to be a way to reinforce how important it is to keep our kids interested in becoming involved, because farm kids are getting fewer and fewer. I was pleased that my local high school ag group all seemed to read my shaer and they jumped in there with “hey, we are relevant, we want to study ag!” and why is it being portrayed as loser effort? So please lets get the word out that these jobs ARE needed to be studied.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 21, 2012 at 8:08 PM

      I agree with you that finding a way to reinforce the importance of an education is essential. It is interesting that after reading your comment, I thought to myself…perhaps we are at a point that the requirements for degrees need to be modernized to be more relevant and beneficial to the field it is related to. Just thinking out loud 🙂

      Thank you for your thoughts.

  12. eburnsthompson
    January 20, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Jeff, I couldn’t agree more with many of the points you raise here. Unfortunately, in the world we live in today people respond to things that are “drastic/outrageous” as opposed to just “wrong/mis-stated.” While I realize that ideally it may have been better to have a subtle response to the article, I don’t feel as though it would’ve gotten the widespread publicity that it did without such a “passionate” response.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 21, 2012 at 8:15 PM

      Please don’t mis-understand me…I think that responses need to reflect passion. However, I tweeted yesterday, “It is good to use passion as fuel source, just don’t let it take the steering wheel.” Our passion is essential, but needs to be tempered in way that our responses do not turn people away.
      As to your second point, I agree that the publicity or “traction” that occurred was fairly high. However, the activity was predominately within the ag community. We must reach beyond the “choir” and grow communities that have greater diversity.
      From your perspective, did you see much involvement outside of agriculture?

      Thank you very much for sharing.

  13. Marcus
    January 20, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    I think a great opportunity was missed to create a one-voice response (unless I missed the response!). Since the article was a disgrace for all of ag, without any exceptions by size, type of production, philosophy, etc., it was a good opportunity to get some unity in all people involved and interested in food production.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 22, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      Thank you for commenting Marcus.

      Personally, I don’t feel “one-voice” responses are effective. They tend to come across as planned “talking points” and fail to show the tremendous diversity of our industry. Individuals need to speak from their own experiences and share their own unique experiences; allow passion to be felt, but do not allow that passion to take control and end the dialogue.

      I can certainly understand how many could interpret the article as being “disgraceful” and even condescending…that is a natural response by people who are so passionate about what they do.

      Might I submit that the article could serve as a “wake-up call” to agriculture. Are agriculture degrees today adequately preparing the next generation? Perhaps we as an industry need to re-evaluate our degree programs and make sure they are keeping up with the constantly changing industry.

      Thanks again for posting your thoughts.

  14. Karri H
    January 20, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    I wanted to add to the discussion with a link to an below re: majors with the lowest unemployment rates nationwide. You will note that ag and value-ag related jobs are well-represented.


    I teach an ag careers class at a local JC and I would strongly argue that if you going to remain in CA and will be getting an ag related job, you will be a better candidate if you have an ag degree (AA, BS, minor, Masters, etc).

    I have an Ag Business Marketing Minor from Cal Poly that has been a major door opener and a part of the reason I have been a successful candidate for several great jobs.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 22, 2012 at 10:31 AM

      Thank you for sharing the link Karri and expressing your passion for education. You are spot on in expressing the importance of an education and the role it plays in improving options in the job market.

      Question: I noticed you have a minor in marketing. Do you see minors outside of what we think of as “traditional ag” adding more value, than solely having a degree strictly in ag?

  15. January 20, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    Jeff, as usual, I find your level of common sense to be anything but common. When I first saw the posts flooding in I was impressed with the sheer volume of response to the article. As few as three years ago we would have seen very little engagement from the ag community in such a discussion. But I was also disheartened by the tone of many (certainly not all) of the responses. I understand that it is easy to get defensive when we feel under attack. But was the author really attacking farmers and ranchers? After actually clicking the link and reading it I didn’t get that sense at all. The author was merely using Dept. of Labor statistics showing a trend in fewer jobs and more competition for those jobs. Many of the posts I saw focused on the importance of raising and growing food for a growing population. However, nowhere in the article did the author say food or the people who raise/grow food were not important!

    Is it possible that some people posted the link without reading the article? Hmmm, I must admit I have been guilty of doing this myself on occasion. Not a good habit to get into!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 22, 2012 at 3:47 PM

      Always appreciate your kind words Daren, thank you.

      I too am thrilled to see the increase in participation in social media by those involved in agriculture.

      Our challenge now is to help them become effective agvocates, able to dismiss being defensive, listen objectively, and engage with tempered passion that leads to positive dialogue.

      It is very important for all of us to approach articles such as this with objectivity and be sure to try and “listen” to what is being said.

      Thanks again.

  16. January 21, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    This is really a great post and you bring up several excellent points with which I agree with. I initially had much the same reaction to the article as many others in agriculture which was basically “how dare you!”. As I have grown older I have really tried to slow down my thoughts and take in all sides of an issue. I started a scathing blog post about the useless degrees article but eventually decided against it for some of the reasons you posted but also for 2 other reasons.
    1. This was ONE persons opinion, be very careful of how much credence you give to one person about any subject, including those who share your opinion, get a wide range of inputs.

    2. When gathering information on an issue remember that as far as media goes, sane, researched and well rounded does not sell or get the attention like off the wall and controversial.

    I salute all agvocates and I appreciate all you do, your passion for our industry and efforts help the world to become a better place.

    Thank you Jeff again for bringing up some excellent points.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 22, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      Good points Larry, thank you for sharing 🙂

  17. January 21, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    I am more of the readers of blogs out there but know what my reaction was to even a tweet about the “useless degrees” article and resulting reactions. Always find the image of someone being pushed by a bully with the resulting swing back to hit is what my first response tends to be and I know it shouldn’t be that way. Thanks for taking that step back to remind me that taking the opportunity to educate people and share views is the goal not to alienate more. Agriculture has so much to share and I think people have never been more ready to listen. The distracting noise in the air while trying to get the message through is what is so frustrating (and sometimes its easy to be some of that noise).

    My sarcastic side is in constant battle of taking that quick first swipe. Your quote of “Information is giving out; communication is getting through” is not just something I just wrote down to remember but am aiming to do more of in the future (I typed hope and changed it!). I think walking the talk will make that stand just a little bit firmer for us all that we may sway a bit but not fall down in the future in getting the message out.

    Thanks again!

    – Sue McD

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 22, 2012 at 11:31 AM

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your feelings and thoughts here Sue, thank you.

      We must all remember that there is much to be gained from listening and sharing in a dialogue.

      Objectivity is often a challenge when we feel that our livelihoods are being threatened.

      Thanks again.

  18. January 22, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    I’m just getting over being speechless. I started life in a decent sized city, not understanding agriculture. I believed a lot of the negative media, but thankfully had a father who patiently told me to “get out there and get an education” (he’s a butcher, and thankfully a tolerant one). So merrily along I went, with all the intentions of changing the evils of animal agriculture.

    One BSc from an Ag school and an MSc focusing on cattle welfare later (the PhD is in the works), I find myself one of the young leaders for the Canadian beef industry. I am thankful to have met a lot of people who were tolerant of talking with me, not to me. I’ve learned so much from my education, not only in the classroom but also in the opportunities that it has afforded me. I have come to love and respect beef production and completely 180’ed on some very misinformed views I once had (much to dad’s relief).

    Reading posts like this get me choked up and excited all at once. I’m so happy to find other perspectives that are open to the discussion and taking a breath before responding when our heart strings are plucked. I think we would go a long way in improving agriculture by learning to take a walk together. To communicate together. To actually hear each others side of the story in a supportive, genuine and considerate way.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      January 23, 2012 at 9:59 AM

      I appreciate your taking the time to post.

      I love to hear about the young agricultural leaders who are recognizing the importance of listening and “walking together” to and with consumers.

      Best of luck with your endeavors and don’t hesitate to give me a shout if you have questions.

      Thanks again 🙂

  1. January 20, 2012 at 8:11 PM
  2. March 7, 2012 at 2:16 AM

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