It is hard to imagine that 5 years ago today I launched my website and started my journey as an “agvocate.”
At the time, I had no idea what that term meant. I just wanted to write. I just wanted to talk about agriculture. I just wanted to dispel myths about modern production methods. I just wanted my friends to no longer be afraid of their food. I had no plans to have associated social media accounts, no plans to do public speaking, no plans on having a website designed, and certainly no idea I would be given the opportunities I’ve had.
In truth, I was terrified the first time I hit publish because (gasp!) someone might actually read what I had written.
But 5 years later and a lot has changed. I have learned so much about messaging and communication. I’ve learned about how to reach out to people and connect with them. I’ve learned way too much about the Facebook algorithm and how it works. I’ve even learned more about agriculture! So, given what I know now, here’s what I would tell my “new blogger” self, and what I would tell other bloggers just starting out.
Don’t Be Afraid
When I started blogging I was, quite literally, terrified. My voice seemed to run counter to a lot of the popular trends and ideas being shared on social media. I was definitely in the minority and it was going to be an uphill battle to convince anyone of anything. I was even worried what my friends were going to say (I won’t lie: for a long time, there were a couple friends I wouldn’t let see my blog…). But as I started writing and creating and connecting, I realized that my message was something that resonated with a lot of people. Other social media users were thinking the same thing. Other farmers felt frustrated by the popular marketing. Other consumers wanted to cut through the misinformation. There was definitely an audience for my voice that was, at least at that time, being sorely underrepresented. So, speak up. Don’t be afraid of what people are going to think.
Just Do You
Generally, when I’m writing an article, the words just flow from the tip of fingers onto the screen. But there was one particular article, a quite important one, that was causing me to struggle. I couldn’t get the words out right. I couldn’t figure how to say things and sound competent. I was just struggling. A friend that I met through my “agvocacy” work gave me this advice: “just do you.” Of course, I realized that was the problem – I felt pressure about the article and I was trying to write using a different style that wasn’t me. But those words have stuck with me and I’ve often repeated them since then.
Just do you.
People will try to tell you how to write better. People will tell you how to run your social media sites better. People will tell you to follow their “rules” about “agvocating” properly. People will tell you not to work a certain message. People will always find a way to criticize what you’re doing. But being yourself means that you can let that criticism just roll off. If you’re being genuine then their is no other way to be. Don’t follow other people’s rules; just do you.
When I started blogging, I was really focused on my message. When I started on social media, I didn’t initially realize how important it is to be social and foster relationships with other bloggers, writers, and influencers. But it definitely is important and something I wish I had started sooner rather than later. I have met (both online and IRL) some super, awesome people through this work. I consider many of these individuals legitimate friends. While creating content is important, take some time to get to know other people that are also “agvocating.”
It’ll Be Worth It
Some days as an “agvocate” are harder than others. People aren’t always nice. People don’t always agree with you. Activists sometimes find your page. But those things pass and fizzle and fade and before you know it, things are looking up again. The whole endeavor will be worth it – for the people you meet, the events you attend, the opportunities you’ll have, and the impact you’ll make. Just remember that every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow.
As The Farmer’s Daughter USA turn 5 years old today, I want to thank everyone that has supported me, challenged me, helped me, motivated me, and pushed me. I’m definitely ready for the next 5 years!