If you aren’t familiar with the intricacies of agriculture, you probably don’t realize how many different organizations and clubs revolve around ag. Every type of livestock has at least one national registration or club. Break it down, and you have groups devoted to breeds. Further, you have state and regional versions of all these organizations, as well. Crops are similar. Corn or maize of some variety is raised in each and every state of the U.S. This means there are national, state, regional, county, and community levels of corn organizations.
These organizations seem to open up room for creativity in communication, especially on the local level.
In my home county, I’ve had the pleasure of being directly involved in some of the better PR movements. The county Corn Growers Association there is pretty active, and have some pretty crafty characters behind the scenes.
Their most flashy promotion? An E85-powered pro-stock pulling truck. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a souped-up pickup truck that competes in weight-pulling competitions. This truck is so heavily modified that it’s illegal to drive on roads. Yeah, I think it’s pretty awesome too.
The unveiling of the Kankakee County Corn Growers Association truck, driven/owned by Dan Dandurand, was a proud moment for the organization. It was also a proud one for me, as I was the lucky girl who got to design the wrap.
Another activity that this county chapter partakes in is Kids’ Day on the Farm. This program, run by the Kankakee Soil and Water Conservation District, the Kankakee County Farm Bureau, the local University of Illinois Extension, WKAN radio, and the Kankakee County Fair and Exposition, allows fourth graders of the county to learn about the agriculture industry that goes on around them. Without fail, the Corn Growers have a representative or two there. Usually a father-son team (Keith and Tim Yohnka of Momence, IL), the duo approach it from a different standpoint. Corn isn’t just food, it’s a material. They let kids stick their hands into a bushel basket to feel the grain. They let volunteers drop corn-based, bio-degradable packing peanuts into water to watch them disintegrate. They sometimes even drive around an ethanol-powered remote-control car.
This a prime example of creativity in “agvocacy.” Other activities include scholarship programs, sponsorship and donating to 4-H, FFA, and school programs, and driving big machinery on roads during different times of the year to “remind people that we’re working hard.” (They like to joke that clogging up rural traffic in March and October is a mode of PR.)
Kankakee County isn’t the only Illinois chapter that’s shaking things up. In fact, local organizations all over America are getting the word out on agriculture every day. Since it’s my home chapter, I know it well, and I admire the enthusiasm and creativity they exhibit in their work. My personal bias aside, every ag organization should strive to keep originality and inspiration in their programs. Agriculture needs it!