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Welcome to the home of the Modern Farm Business® podcast, hosted weekly by Dean Heffta. Modern Farm Business translates proven methods and best practices from the business arena to today's modern farm leadership environment. We'll be learning from forward-thinking experts and discovering how to apply time-tested techniques to make real improvements on the farm.

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Oct 5, 2017

Hear how you can better tell farming’s story as author, speaker and leading “ag-vocate” Michele Payn joins Dean on this week’s episode.

Michele Payn is a born-and-raised farm girl who grew to be one of North America’s leading experts in connecting farm and food. In 2001 she founded Cause Matters Corp., a public relations firm specializing in connecting people around the food plate, including farmers, nutrition professionals, foodies and chefs. Michele is a Certified Speaking Professional and Registered Dietitian, and she has authored two books about the intersection of farm and food, including #1 Amazon bestseller No More Food Fights!.

Food Truths from Farm to Table: 25 Surprising Ways to Shop & Eat Without Guilt. 2017. Praeger. Buy it at Amazon
No More Food Fights! Growing a Productive Farm & Food Conversation. 2013. Dog Ear Publishing. Buy it at Amazon.

Website:; Twitter: @mpaynspeaker; Facebook: @causematters

Q: Why worry about telling ag’s story?
A: Today we have no choice but to do so. It’s a best business practice. If you’re stubborn or would rather deal with the farm’s day-to-day operations instead of all this “PR fluff,” I’d suggest it’s time for a wakeup call. This conversation impacts ag’s bottom line and your very right to farm.

Q: What’s something playing out right now because farmers’ voices weren’t strong enough?
A: 90% of all seed corn in the U.S. is touched by Hawaii. GMO has been outlawed in Hawaii multiple times because of activism; that affects the entire country. Crisper technology with beans, rBST on the dairy side, antibiotic usage with the VFD, gestation stalls for hogs...from EPA to the statehouse to the consumer side, every farmer’s individual voice matters.

Q: What can I do if I’m uncomfortable speaking or lack the gumption to defend my position in the ag story?
A: Realize that as a farmer you are the most trusted resource concerning food production. Surveys say while people may not trust farming as an industry (because they don’t understand it), they still trust farmers. You don’t have to be an amazing speaker—just communicate what’s happening on your farm today. If you don’t speak up, who do you expect to share the farm’s story?

Q: Are there any examples of others who have been effective in getting their story out? Someone we can learn from?
A: One of the best sources to learn from is the activism community. Connect with people’s hot-buttons, but unlike many activists, maintain your integrity. Connect on a more emotional level first and you can earn the right to talk with people about facts and science.

Q: What makes for a healthy conversation when dealing with a topic so emotional it has potential to turn into a conflict?
A: First, take down your defenses. Don’t be defensive. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Respond in a way that translates the science of what you do to the person you’re talking to. Remember, farmers only make up 1.5% of the population. People don’t know what you know. Take the time to explain what we do and why it is we do what we do (chemicals, pesticides, GMO) through the use of stories.

Q: How do I get involved with schools, getting in there to share with children about my local ag story?
A: Use trusted relationships. If you have kids in school, you should have those relationships established with teachers, administrators and the principal. If not, use your local commodity groups and farm bureaus to identify schools with interest in agriculture ambassador programs and related education.

Q: What is one thing I should make sure I do when telling my story? How about one thing to avoid?
A: Absolutely do take 15 minutes each day to tell your story. Use social media. Do not be defensive. We have a tendency to be perceived as arrogant and defensive at times when telling people the truth about agriculture. Bite your tongue once in a while. Don’t be defensive about ag. And open your ears; you might be surprised what you hear.

1. If we don’t tell our own ag story, someone else will...and it probably won’t be the story you want told.
2. Think about the gifts you can use to share the story throughout your community, social circles, or online.
3. Don’t get defensive. Go back and listen to our podcast episode featuring Joseph Grenny and learn about how to hold a crucial conversation rather than being combative. When you keep your composure, you win.

We always welcome your feedback at Modern Farm Business Podcast. Do you have suggestions for future episodes, or questions on something we’ve already covered? Drop Dean a line at He’ll look at each email personally and respond as quickly as possible.

Thanks for listening! See you next week!