Connor Willems, a senior studying Dairy Science from Reedsville, Wis., is UW-Madison CFB’s president.
“Until I decided to pursue a career in agriculture, I would have been part of the 98% who do not work directly with agriculture. Although I grew up in a rural community and had a better understanding than those in more population dense areas, I still can find common ground with those who are removed from agriculture. As a freshman, I lived in Witte Residence Hall on a floor with fifty other students, a lot of whom I made lasting friendships with. Not surprisingly, I was the only Dairy Science major on the floor and the only one with a major that tied directly into production agriculture. Almost all my floor mates had never been on a dairy farm, but they all had a perception on the industry be it good, bad, or indifferent. Throughout the year, I would be approached with questions about production agriculture and was always glad to have a conversation about it.
For me, the key to bridging the gap and talking to other students about agriculture is having a conversation with them rather than lecturing them on the topic. I try to gain an understanding of why those asking about a certain aspect of agriculture have that perception. It is important to remember that while there may not be evidence to support someone’s concern about agriculture, their concern is still legitimate to them. I find that when you fully understand why someone has a concern, it is easier to have a conversation as to why their mind can be put at ease rather than talking down to them. This can be done by engaging in meaningful conversation. Making a personal connection with those you are talking to also makes you more approachable when they have more questions in the future, and you can continue to advocate for agriculture!
I use this same approach in my conversation about agriculture today, and I always enjoy being able to talk with those in my classes, passing through Library Mall during Ag Day on Campus, or just throughout life!”