More than 2,700 high school students from across the country learned the importance of using values-based communication to advocate for agriculture during "Can We Talk?" training workshops in Washington, D.C. this summer.
Developed by the Center for Food Integrity for a young audience, "Can We Talk?" is an interactive shared-values curriculum that was part of the FFA Washington Leadership Conference, sponsored by Monsanto.
"Values communication is an aspect of effective leadership that often gets overlooked, yet is essential for young leaders today, especially in agriculture," said Whitney Danker, FFA education specialist. "WLC students not only enjoyed learning about values communication, but were able to practice implementing it into daily conversations."
"Can We Talk?" outlines the challenges agriculture faces, then - through values-assessment, messaging, and role play exercises - demonstrates how to use values to advocate for agriculture with audiences that are often uninformed or misinformed about today's industry.
"Whether it's one-on-one conversations, public speaking opportunities, media outreach or online engagement, there are many opportunities for students to connect with audiences using values," said Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity. "Our research shows that shared values are three to five times more important to building trust than technical skills."
"That's why reaching a younger audience with this type of training is crucial; agriculture needs their voice," he said.
The training seemed to resonate with students, who were encouraged to not only create an action plan to incorporate values in their communication about agriculture, but to use the "Can We Talk?" curriculum to train peers in their communities about how to engage audiences with values-based messages.
"It addressed a real-life issue that we face every day as agriculturalists," sad Micaela, an FFA student from Oklahoma. "We must fight the myths and stereotypes that show agriculture in the wrong light. This training gave us the tools to share our story while respecting the opinions of others."
"Can We Talk?" curriculum and exercises are being made available to students via the FFA Washington Leadership Conference Facebook site.