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Ag is sexy

Extreme, over simplified, unscientific, and exaggerated problems for the sake of marketing, activism and bolstering the bankrolls of non-government organizations have proven to be far too successful to go away anytime soon.

The reason these tactics work: they are sexy. PETA, Greenpeace, and the Humane Society of the United States have been successful because they know that sexy sells. The videos and pictures of abused animals, the mournful music, the attractive celebrities endorsing these groups doing crazy media stunts — all of this offers a unique flair that makes it stand out due to being extreme, memorable, unique, clever, terrifying, or otherwise instantly recognizable as something desirable or worthwhile. In short — sexy.

The details of the science behind genetically modified crops are inherently boring to most people. Short, emotional headlines about their potential ills for mankind (where the facts need not get in the way) are sexy. That is the problem.

If there is any hope of winning these industry-altering pubic relations battles, agriculture must find ways to be sexy too. That means coming up with strategies to make the sometimes complex and hard-to-understand daily realities of agriculture appeal to the mass public. This is not an easy task, to be sure, but it is important.

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of FFA members and advisors about this topic at the State Convention. As an exercise, I had them help me write headlines for three stories I was working on to make them “sexy.” They are: “Sharing the legacy: Small farm selling a connection to food” (a story about an organic CSA), “Raising sheep and teaching the flock” (a story about Extension sheep specialist Roger High), and “Generations adding new twists to family traditions on the farm” (an Ohio Century Farm story). Honorable mention goes to “Sheep specialist shares experiences both good and baaaad” for the sheep story. Stay tuned for these stories and their sexy headlines developed by FFA members in the coming weeks.

Thanks to those FFA members for the help and attention to this important issue that has undoubtedly shaped my generation of agriculture and will certainly have more impact for future generations on the farm.

Most everyone reading this already knows that ag is sexy. It is up to all of us moving forward that everyone else knows it too.

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