Since the moment I was accepted to Texas A&M as an agricultural communications major my senior year of high school, I have had to answer that question hundreds of times. It has become somewhat of a joke among agricultural communicators, where we love to tell our best comebacks to that question. I always loved the “we talk to cows” answer myself.
However, it is a bit concerning that a field that so many of us have worked very hard to be successful in is seen as a joke or “the Mrs. Degree” or some degree that no one really knows what we do. After watching me work through two degrees in the agricultural communication field, my parents still tell people “she does something with writing.”
After three months in the agricultural communication field and six years of studying in two of the top agricultural communication departments in the nation, I finally have the answer.
No, we don’t talk to cows.
We aren’t just working until we find a husband.
We aren’t even just “doing something with writing.”
We are translators.
Agriculture, like any other field, has a lot of jargon. Researchers speak in the language of academia, producers speak the language of production, and consumers speak the language of “what I want”. When you have so many differences in how people communicate, how can they get what they need to say to the others?
Do we know everything there is to know about agricultural production? Absolutely not. Not even a fraction. But through agricultural communication degrees, we have to take classes in every other part of the college of agriculture, so we at least know the basics. Whether its poultry or swine or beef cattle or crop production, we’ve probably had to learn about it at some point. Because of that extremely wide area of knowledge, we can understand what farmers are saying (usually), we can figure out what researchers are writing about, and we can talk to consumers about what they want or need. Being able to communicate with a variety of people from different backgrounds and viewpoints is what being a communicator is all about.
So what do we do? We write press releases and articles about people and products. We write technical information from the scientists for producers. We write information about products for the consumer to understand. We create sales information, advertisements, brochures, websites, magazines, iPhone apps. We strategize the best way to introduce a new product, or raise brand awareness, or how to target particular audiences. We talk to legislators and regulators. We organize events and attend trade shows. We research market information, product information, audience information.
We take information from the person who has it to the person that needs it, in the best language and way possible.
That is what agricultural communicators do.