by Sam Dolcini

Last Month both Sonoma and Marin County Farm Bureau’s had very successful first time back from Covid farm day events, where they showcased local agriculture to audiences of school children. The North Bay Dairy Women held the dairy princess contest and the local industry has winner Emma Safford as a great ambassador who will be spending time at parades, county fairs and the like representing their industry and products for the next year.

Very soon the county fairs will be opening their gates, and thousands of attendees will be walking through them, many to go visit and see the animals. In today’s north bay region there are thousands of people that will come to tour the wine country and partake of that magical beverage that is made of grapes. 

Land trusts and other local organizations will take advantage of the springtime beauty to share the work they have done on the land. It is not uncommon for a farmer or rancher to have friends come visit, so that people that might not be as familiar with our farms can learn more. There was even a situation in the South San Joaquin are where a member of the Dominican Sisters brought 40 fellow staff and spouses from the school where she worked to spend two nights with families that farmed in the Tulare Lake Basin.

These are all wonderful examples of our industry connecting with consumers and supporters, I think modern advertising companies would call these events “touch points”. A point in time where our agricultural industry came in contact with consumers (we known they are all consumers because they all eat) that could also be potential supporters.

The amount of volunteer time that goes into all these events would be almost impossible to calculate. From the prep work to the big teams on the day of, to make all these events go smoothly in almost all cases is a labor of love. The question becomes how do we make the most of the time and energy invested by volunteers and expand on the interest that people are demonstrating.

Remember that with ALMOST all the above-mentioned activities, the attendees self-selected their involvement…. In the world of advertising that is huge. All kinds of companies spend millions on advertising based on statistics that suggest they MIGHT be able to target an interested consumer. If a person is coming to farm day, pay admission to the county fair or asking for a tour they are proving they are interested in the world of agriculture.

Here is the question, what could our “next steps” be with all of these individuals that are telling us they want to learn more or be supportive? If any company with a retail product has this many people “self-select” you darn well know they would be following up with them, because a first touch point is step one to more sales.

Now we in general agricultural organizations will never have what could be defined as a product to sell these self-selectors, but we sure could use their support, especially at the ballot box and at governmental meetings. Not long ago an elected, that is supportive of Agriculture commented to me, “Do you want to know the easiest way to get support for any agricultural issues?… Walk into an elected’s office with more numbers”… numbers of voters that is, voters  that we could reach out to and contact. The ability to be able to contact large numbers of voters with messages like “support Mr. Smith’s reelection” carry a LOT of weight. If an elected also knows a visitor has the ability to make the elected’s phone ring off the hook or to send emails and texts on in issue, this can have a big impact as well.

I am willing to guess that many of the “self-selected” we have or will have contact with this spring and summer could be added to our team of supporters.  And while as you are asking how could we do that, just look at what all the organizations that support anti agricultural ideas do… step one, is get names and emails, step two is have a price point to join an organization that supports and matches their interests level and ability to join (think cost) and step three is make them feel good about being a member. 

When visiting Washington DC and Sacramento I have often wondered what it would be like to sit down across the table from an elected and have them know that with three clicks of a mouse (the computer kind) hundreds of thousands of people could be told about where this representative stands on an issue. Hmm maybe someday my wonder will be answered…