Speak up: Advocate for agriculture

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 15, 2019

By Laura Allen

Rowan 4-H agent

Next Wednesday, N.C. farmers, agribusinesses, commodity groups, universities and agriculture students are invited to attend N.C. Agriculture Awareness Day at the State Capitol, Bicentennial Mall and Legislative Complex in downtown Raleigh.

According to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the purpose of the gathering is “educating N.C. legislators and lawmakers of the importance of N.C. agriculture and how we can grow stronger together.”

It’s all about making others aware that N.C. agriculture is an $87 billion industry that employs 17 percent of the state’s workforce. It is about educating others on the importance of this industry to our state and its residents.

In times when there are many groups trying to spread misinformation and untruths about agriculture, those involved in the industry and those who support agriculture must be willing to advocate for what is true.

Advocating is something we can all do, but sometimes it’s not the easiest thing to do. Many folks do not enjoy speaking in front of other people, whether it’s a small group or a large crowd. Many folks do not enjoy debate, talking about their opinions or defending their livelihood, but it’s something that must happen, especially in the agricultural industry.

In today’s digital world, social media is a major platform for advocating and it can make a huge impact, in both positive and negative ways. However, advocating through public speaking and conversation is still important and should not be neglected. The ability to tactfully, respectfully and skillfully speak to others using credible information, instead of hiding behind a screen, should not become a lost art.

In my opinion, the best time to learn these skills is at a young age. Youth are the way of the future, and they deserve to have the skills necessary to advocate for their passions.

The more learning, experience and practice that youths have in speaking at a young age, the more comfortable they will be with using these skills as an adult.

Are you ready to get your child involved in public speaking opportunities? If so, 4-H provides an avenue for youths to get engaged in public speaking. 4-H helps with creating the future generation of advocates for the agricultural industry and teaches youths to be able to speak to others, no matter the topic.

One of the best ways to get youths engaged in public speaking is through participation in 4-H presentations. 4-H presentations provide the opportunity for youths to practice and develop public speaking skills in a safe, supportive environment specifically for ages 5-18 (as of Jan. 1).

To participate in 4-H presentations, youths explore a topic that interests them and then create a presentation on that topic. There are many categories they could potentially enter into, including agricultural and non-agricultural topics, and if their topic doesn’t fit in a category, they can compete in the open category.

Most categories require a five- to 12-minute presentation. They can use props, displays, posters and a PowerPoint presentation if they desire.

County-level competition will be at 6 p.m. April 29 at Rowan County Cooperative Extension. Youths must be pre-registered by April 12 to participate. They may then qualify for district competition held in Lincoln County and State Presentation Finals held July 20 in Raleigh.

During these competitions, the youths conduct their presentation in front of judges and other observers and will receive valuable feedback, ribbons or other awards.

At N.C. Ag Awareness Day next week, I’m sure Raleigh will be filled with many former 4-H’ers who learned how to advocate and speak to others through their experiences in 4-H. So let’s work together to create the next generation of public speakers and advocates. Get your youth involved in 4-H today.

For details, the registration form link and additional resources on 4-H presentations, visit https://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu/2019/03/rowan-4-h-county-activity-day-presentations-talent-expressive-arts/.

For questions or more information on 4-H presentations, contact 4-H agent Laura Allen at laura_allen@ncsu.edu or 704-216-8970.

For more information on N.C. Ag Awareness Day, go to http://ncagr.gov/. You can also visit the N.C. Ag Awareness Day Facebook page for a schedule.

Rowan County Cooperative Extension is at 2727-A Old Concord Road in Salisbury.