I finally have an answer to the ultimate question: What does an ag communicator do?

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.

But sometimes we do talk to them anyway... Who wouldn't want to talk to that face?

But sometimes we do talk to them anyway… Who wouldn’t want to talk to that face?

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?

Its not all sows, plows and cows.

Its not all sows, plows and cows.

Agricultural communicators.

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.

The capital after a long day of work

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.

IMG_1074

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.

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12 responses to “I finally have an answer to the ultimate question: What does an ag communicator do?

  1. Jessica,
    Thank you for posting this article!! I just graduated from UGA with an Ag. Comm degree. Glad to know I am not the only one that has heard the “cow whisperer” joke. You did a phenomenal job describing the work of an agricultural communicator!

    • Thanks for the comment! The cow whisperer is one of the most common replies I hear to my degree… sometimes when people ask what I do, I respond with that just to see the look they give me! Thanks for reading!

  2. It isn’t cows, pigs, chickens or crops, it’s people you inform and communicate with about agriculture! Continue in the field, that’s within your heart, it can only grow, and increase your knowledge. Wonderful work, greatly needed too. Bless your heart.

  3. Jessica, I am deeply saddened to hear that you had to defend your major on campus, as I did not have that experience. The AGCJ degree I pursued at Texas A&M was stimulating, engaging, challenging, rigorous, thorough, practical, and propelled me to great career success. The faculty were experts in their field devoted to providing hands-on experiences that gave students real work and portfolio pieces to leverage into that first job. I never encountered the stereotypes you describe on campus during my undergraduate career. As a graduate, people are interested by my unique degree title and want to know more about it. If anything, they are impressed that the program armed me with a strong communications and journalism toolbox while also equipping me with a broad knowledge of agricultural practices.

    • Thanks for your comment Emily.

      First, I want to clarify that my experience at both Texas A&M and Oklahoma State were very challenging and rewarding experiences, which I would not trade for anything. I value the education I received at both institutions, and chose both because of their extremely successful Agricultural Communications programs. The stereotypes I described were not just associated with either of those universities, but was something I not only experienced first hand, but heard from fellow students from all over the country (as you can tell by other comments). In a program that is so varied in what you can do after graduation, it is hard to nail down that one thing that you do with an ag comm degree. The variety of the program is exactly why I chose it, but it also makes it difficult to describe to someone who is not familiar with the program. That, along with the fact that the program is typically high in the female to male student ratio, has caused some stereotypes to develop. While I find most of them amusing (such as the “we talk to cows” bit), it is a fact that I have had to defend my degree to some who thought it was just an Mrs. degree, even when I was working on my second degree. (I once had someone ask if I was working on my second degree because I didn’t find a husband the first time around.) Most of those who say these types of things mean it jokingly and I take no offense, and usually make jokes back.
      Please do not think that I regret my degree or in any way think the ag communications degree is suffering because of these perceptions. I think the degree is one of the most valuable degrees a person could receive, especially in the agricultural field- probably one of the reasons most ag comm programs are growing and new programs are starting. I simply wrote this blog to discuss what it is, truly, that an ag comm practitioner does, specifically if I had to sum it all up in one thing. I appreciate your point of view though, and this is just the type of conversation I hope will continue from this blog. Thanks for reading, and please continue to read in the future!

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