September 19, 2022

What’s Trending: Why Ag Stories Can Still Make an Impact During a Contentious News Cycle

We’ve all been guilty of it, especially during the last six months: Doomscrolling.

With a near-constant grind of weighty, difficult news stories available 24-7 on your nearest screen, it’s easy to zone out as the grim parade of current events passes in front of us: politics, economic upheaval, pandemics, natural disasters and war.

With all this competition for eyeballs, how can we break through the doom and gloom to tell ag’s story in a way that resonates?

It may be easier than you think, and it comes down to an irrefutable fact that I tell many of WG’s members when I talk to them about doing interviews with the media.

People gotta eat.

All those attention-grabbing, stomach-sinking headlines happen in the background of this simple human truth. And because of that, there is still a rich opportunity to tell our story to a wide audience. In fact, during the first six months of 2022, news and interviews about Western Growers and its membership reached a potential audience of more than 5.4 billion. That’s more than three times the potential audience we reached during the last six months of 2021.

Among the pieces that recently have resonated:

•   A May 2022 New York Times article on immigration and the labor shortage featured WG members Sabor Farms, Turlock Fruit Company, WG President & CEO Dave Puglia, WG VP of Innovation Walt Duflock and the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology’s Global Harvest Automation Report. It was printed on the front page of the paper’s business section as well as appearing online.

•   An April 2022 Associated Press article entitled “Russian war worsens fertilizer crunch, risking food supplies” included an interview with and photographs of WG member Will Terry of Terry Farms. The AP is a global news and photography wire service, which means the article and accompanying photos were used by hundreds of outlets digitally, on TV and in print around the world.

•   A segment released in May 2022 to CNN’s global syndicate—so not just available to CNN in the U.S., but also its affiliated stations in more than 200 countries—delved into the stories of women in agriculture and featured interviews with WG Members Heather Mulholland of Mulholland Citrus and Alexandra Allen of Main Street Produce.

So that’s it, right? Slam dunk! Everybody knows about ag! We’re done! It’s wine o’clock!

Well, not quite. Because as much as we play offense in getting our story out there, there are times when we need to play defense.

There is still an immense amount of misinformation in the digital sphere about agriculture, food safety and our supply chain. Those 5 billion eyeballs that we reached in the first six months of 2022 are surpassed by an army of what I like to call “zombie facts”—unchecked citations about food and agriculture that unquestioningly get passed along.

I don’t think this is done maliciously—if it was, I probably wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning to do my job—but it is the result of an underinformed, harried base of reporters, editors and news producers. We need to use the media as wisely—and as frequently—as possible to educate and set the record straight in front of as big of an audience as we can get.

Because, as we well know, people gotta eat. The interest in our story is inherently there. Our job now is to make sure people understand beyond a doubt where that food comes from.