Saturday morning, I was at a meeting in a room filled with farmers who had come from every county in Indiana to a meeting in Indianapolis. They asked me to help them understand about how you can talk about a topic you are highly passionate about when it can also be controversial. In other words, they were wondering how they could better connect with others. It was a great way to start my day!
The room’s demographics reflected what we see in agriculture a lot of the time. There were more of the greatest generation and baby boomers than millennials, but there were some young faces too. Even a baby testing out her lungs with a good cry.
A few hours later, I was on a flight to Austin, Texas, with a crowd of technology geeks, musicians, etc. headed to South by Southwest (SXSW). There are people with lots of ink (i.e., tattoos), plenty of guys with long hair and beards, even a few people with neon colored hair. The age is largely millennial and quite a few in the plane would be described broadly as hipster.
And yes, I feel comfortable in the midst of both crowds. Why?
Technology and food are big discussion points for both. And in fact, people in both crowds are very passionate about both topics.
Friday night, the farmer event included a local beer tasting and cheese to bring dairy into the picture. During my several days in Texas, there were several local wine and beer events but I may have liked the opportunity to taste a local ice cream & sorbet line a bit more. Not only was it incredibly tasty, but it involved liquid nitrogen! And once the sun came out, I was among the crowd of people catching a bite at Austin’s food trucks. 🙂
That morning in Indy, someone was talking with people about getting container gardens started for the summer. Fast-forward a bit to a meet-up on an Austin street and you would have heard me talking with a SXSW staffer about gardening.
At both places I found myself talking to people who spend a significant amount of time, online and in real life, trying to connect with communities of shared interest. Whether it was a farmer in the middle of “Nowhere,” Indiana or a community manager from New York, both were trying new ways to reach out to others to better understand and be better understood.
My only regret was that more couldn’t share these unique experiences until I realized we all have that ability every day thanks to social media and the World Wide Web (which turned 25 this week – happy birthday, www)!
If you are in agriculture and would like to connect with more of the folks you don’t see on your back roads, try one of these Twitter chats & hashtags that may align with your other interests like #sundaysupper, #foodiechats, #winechat, #runchat, or any of the huge number of chats on Twitter.
If you are like me, a city person who didn’t grow up in agriculture and has a lot of interest in food, why not reach out to some farmers who enjoy sharing photos and tales of their farms? You can find them at #agchat on Tuesday nights 8 – 10 pm central (#foodchat on the third Tuesday of each month), #agnerd or #agtech.
This was one of those times when I realized I was in the midst of a unique experience. I was moving between two very different crowds, and two very different worlds, that had more in common than either I or they had realized.