In recent years, there has been plenty of assistance to help you learn about and effectively address community relations. Certainly, the basic points to creating positive relations between your business and the community may seem simple enough, yet they’re not always practiced.

You can’t afford to let a lapse in community relations become a stumbling block to your pork operation’s business plans — whether you have plans to expand or not. 

With that in mind, Greg Blonde, University of Wisconsin Extension agricultural agent, offers the following steps to renew your community relations mindset. Sharing these ideas with everyone associated with your business would be a beneficial exercise.

1  Practice proactive communication

If you are planning to expand production, build new facilities or purchase additional land or facilities, provide details to community leaders and area decision-makers up front. Don’t let them hear about it through the grapevine. It’s nearly impossible to communicate effectively when you’re forced to react to what others have said.

2 Practice direct communication

Direct communication means that you don’t let others communicate for you. Third parties — also known as the rumor mill — will gladly start the dialogue, which only complicates your business. If you do hear a rumor about your pork production unit, go directly to the people involved and make sure that they hear accurate details from you.

3 See that your operation maintains a neat appearance

Keep lawns mowed, retired equipment out of the yard and buildings painted. Landscaping is effective both from an impression standpoint, as well as providing environmental benefits. Overall, these actions send the message that you operate a professional business and take pride in it.

4 Make little gestures count

Consider providing services for neighbors or other people within the community. For example, you might disk a neighbor’s garden, share farming or lawn equipment or plow snow.

5  Be open and honest with neighbors

Let your community know what your business is all about. Communicate the philosophies, goals, economic realities and values of your pork production unit. Point out the positive economic impact that the business has on the area. For example show how every dollar of income or job creates additional income and jobs for the local economy.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, economists and industry associations can help provide such impact perspectives.

However, don’t focus solely on the economic benefits. Peoples’ concerns over quality of life, environmental impact, and so forth, won’t be soothed by dollar signs.   

6 Get involved in the community

Donations, scholarships, internships, a community barbecue or some other token of appreciation to people, events and organizations within a community can go a long way to cement relationships. Sponsor a sports team or some other event or award. Your community needs to know that you are involved.

7 Offer public tours

This is a tough one due to biosecurity issues, however, where there’s a will there’s a way. Think about where and how you might be able to offer controlled visits. Video presentations in some cases might be a solution. The point is to give people a chance to learn about your business and the management practices you implement. This puts a “face” on your business. It also helps educate the non-farming public about food-production issues.

8 Participate in your local, land-use process

Get to know your local (township, city and county) government representatives as well as area groups that impact land-use decisions in your community. Try to get a spot on these boards whenever possible.

9 Follow the golden rule

Treat others as you would like to be treated. Be sure to make the phrase “thank you” part of your everyday vocabulary. Use it sincerely and often.