Community service, volunteering and philanthropy begins in the heart first.
Now that Thanksgiving is over, radio stations are occupied with holiday tunes and the onslaught of shopping opportunities has invaded the media with vengeance – to the point where the spirit of giving of the holiday season feels overshadowed with self-serving promotions. And though we should feel gratitude throughout the year, the winter holidays seem to be the primary, if not only, time that we recognize others and give back to our communities, including agriculture, and to those who are less fortunate.
So much of our work as marketers and brand stewards is to generate business and develop ways in which we can promote who we are and what we do for farmers, so that they can use our products and services. The winter holiday season is one where we reflect on what we’ve accomplished for our brands while we fine-tune plans for the next year. And it’s a time of year where we are motivated to join in the festivities and giving.
Our instinct is to support agriculture with our year-end charitable giving. At Marketing to Farmers, we fully endorse giving back to ag, and suggest that we look to farmers for inspiration.
I’m always struck by the humility of farmers, no matter the scale of their operations. Whether they’re running thousands of acres of corn, cotton or potatoes, or tens of thousands of head of feeder cattle or broilers, farmers share a common connection to the land and pride in producing a tangible product that can feed, clothe or be manufactured into other goods for our growing population. One other characteristic that is universal among farmers is their fierce commitment to their communities – their local communities and the broader community of agriculture.
We see that commitment in how they rally around their local schools, houses of worship and FFA and 4-H clubs. We see it when they come together to help a nearby farm family amidst an illness or loss, harvest their crops or get the herd milked. And we most recently saw it when farmers across the U.S. helped farmers and farm animals impacted by Hurricane Harvey and wildfires in Montana.
In the context of philanthropic efforts in the ag community, it’s necessary to recognize how much farmers already contribute by virtue of what they do and when their circumstances prohibit them from doing so. Weather or natural disaster can disrupt land and devastate a crop, feedstuff or the herd, which in turn affects farmers and their families’ livelihoods, along with those who help produce, transport and process their farm output.
So how can we in the same community give back to ag? We don’t have to wait for the winter holidays or a natural disaster. A few ideas include:
- Support beginning farmers through donation and involvement with groups such as the National Young Farmers Coalition.
- Volunteer for an environmental clean-up day or wetlands restoration project in your region – rejuvenating the land and shoreline around you may help develop new farmland, aquaculture, an urban garden or a green market. Organizations such as the National Association of Conservation Districts or the EPA’s Cleanups In My Community are an ideal place to search for a way to get involved.
- Sponsor and/or mentor a student from 4-H, FFA and local community student organizations to help develop the next generation in the ag industry.
- Support the local colleges and universities that employ your agronomists, veterinarians scientists, researchers and Extension specialists.
Agriculture takes on many meanings and so does service to the community. There are many ways in which we can integrate ourselves into ag throughout the year for the sake of goodwill, to inspire future generations, and to be better brand ambassadors.