Agvocacy, the act of advocating for agriculture, is a big part of my life. It's become a big part of who I am. Despite that, I have plenty of friends and family members who have no connection or tie with America's farmers, except for that they've found through me.
They ask me why I do what I do. They don't necessarily understand why I have a passion for this agvocacy thing.
The answers vary, depending on what's timely and relevant.
Sometimes I say that my agvocacy work is to help people understand the life that Farmboy and his family leads. Sometimes I tell folks that it's a way to stay in touch with a lost part of my family's legacy. Sometimes I talk about how spreading the word about a vast, diverse agricultural industry can help consumers better understand and appreciate the various items that farms supply them with.
In the end, though...in the end, it's about one thing. One word.
The people are what make this a passion. They're the cement that hold the industry together. I didn't really "get" it right away, when my agvocacy journey started. When I sent my first tweet on the #agchat stream, I didn't think of it as a means for enhancing my human experience.
I just thought I was connecting with people who had a common interest in agriculture. Am I glad I jumped into it? Yes. My life has changed drastically because of it. I have some direction. I have something to hold on to, to drive me. Studying in communications seems so much more valuable knowing that I can apply it to a field I am passionate about.
However, it wasn't until recently that I really got how pivotal the people are. There's always the consciousness that behind a Twitter handle or a Facebook profile or a blog, there is a real living, breathing, thinking, feeling person. You see glimpses of lives, picture of animals and fields and farm equipment and friends and family. You experience a snapshot view of their life as a whole.
It isn't until you step back and get a feel for the person behind the profiles, that it really becomes clear. It isn't necessarily the industry that keeps me coming back, tweeting and blogging about farmers and ranchers. It's the people in the industry. It's the farmers and the ranchers. And when I say "farmers and ranchers," I don't refer to them as people who just farm or just ranch. It's not just a job; it's who they are. There is no way to separate the job title and the person.
The realization of that true humanity doesn't arrive all at once, though. I've become aware of it in stages. You can claim to "get" the people who tweet and blog and poke and lurk and digg. But it takes time to truly realize the unique individuality and interactive potential of the millions of other users on here. These people are wives and husbands and children and sisters and brothers and friends.
Because of Twitter, I now have close friends scattered all over the U.S., and a few in Canada. I've sat in my dorm room in Illinois around midnight and complained about homework with a farmer pursuing an M.B.A....in Nebraska. It's one instance of the interactions that I would have once thought absurd. Now, they're normal. Now, they're a part of my everyday life, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
These people, they're special. They are the reason that this country keeps ticking. They're amazing. Now, they're sharing their stories online. And they have real, true, breath-taking, amazing stories.
If anyone ever tries to tell you that they agvocate for any other reason, call them out. They're wrong. They can talk cotton and cattle and corn all they like, but it comes down to one thing: people.