We all get tough questions about agriculture. It’s not that people are attacking what we do (though some might), it’s just that they may not understand what we are doing and they only want to know more about it or learn our point of view on it.
So whether you are talking to a crowd or one-on-one or, even online, you want to be able to answer an inquiry.
Now I’ve gone through how to handle tough questions before – this isn’t about how to handle them. This is more about prepping ahead of time and using a great tool that can help you handle questions.
And my favorite tool is also something I refer to as my digital brain. It’s the note taking application called Evernote.
I love Evernote. It’s definitely one of my favorite apps and I use it on a daily basis.
It’s available on my phone (iPhone / Android) and it also has a web-based browser and app if you are on a Mac.
Let’s set Evernote up so it can be a go-to place to help you answer questions you might get about farming. So first let’s prepare for tough questions by actually gathering them up and answering them as best you can.
1. Write down the tough questions you’ve received and answer them.
You might not be able to recall any right away and that’s ok. I’ll give you a sample one.
I hear that dairy farmers abuse their animals. Is that true? Why do they do this? Isn’t there laws against that?
As a dairy farmer, I can tell you that I do everything I can not to hurt my animals in any way. And most dairy farmers I know take excellent care of their animals.
Besides being the ethical thing to do, dairy cows must be healthy and well cared-for in order to produce wholesome milk.
We farmers depend on healthy cows for our family’s livelihood. We provide cows with a nutritious diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions.
Our dairy cows receive periodic check-ups, vaccinations, and prompt treatment of illness.
The dairy industry has worked with veterinarians and other animal care and industry experts to establish guidelines for the proper care of dairy cows.
When I hear about abuse, I get so angry. I know that dairy farmers across the country are outraged by these rare instances of abuse on dairy farms.
These actions do not reflect the animal care practices of the thousands of hard working dairy farm families across the U.S. who care for their animals every day.
I know that dairy farms and companies are committed to animal well-being, and have put in place some important initiatives reinforcing this.
National Milk Producers Federation, with support from a coalition of dairy organizations, farmers and dairy food companies, launched the National Dairy FARM Program in 2000.
FARM is a verifiable national animal well-being program that offers U.S. dairy farmers tools for practicing excellent management of their herds. You can visit nationaldairyfarm.com for more information.
Now this is a very long answer and you definitely would want to put it in your own words. These are just talking points to help you out when you want to form your own answers.
Some other questions and answers you might want to have handy are your personal experiences on
- Animal Care
- Food Safety
- Emissions and Methane
- Myths about milk/dairy
If you are looking for more answers to tough questions, feel free to reach out to me at don.schindler (at) dairy.org and I’m happy to get you more answers.
Now one thing that I will point out is that when talking in person or online, you need to be careful of the words you use in your answers.
Using terms that help people to understand without taking offense to your answers is the best way to handle tough situations. The truth about what you do doesn’t have to come across in a harsh matter – in fact, it will cause more issues not less.
You should always take the high road and try your best to listen and respond in a polite manner. You can check out my blog post on “winning an argument online” for some more tips.
If you want to open people up to your point of view or position on a topic, never say “no” but use “yes and”. People love hearing “yes” and the “and” allows you to deliver your point without causing them to get defensive and unwilling to hear anything.
Here’s some language that can help you when answering questions:
In my opinion…
It is my belief…
I don’t doubt that and….
From my point of view or POV…
It seems to me that…
I agree with that and I also…
If you are trying to support what you say, use phrases like:
To support this…
If you believe you can use Cause and Effect, use terms like:
For this reason…
As might be expected…
If you have to counter, be gentle and really listen to what you are saying (in other words, say it out loud to yourself before hitting send):
I realize you…
I understand you…
Even though you…
It may be that you…
Your idea to or on XXXXXX deserves merit and…
But understand that if you add a “but”, this term means “no” to most people when you are countering a claim.
Sometimes it’s difficult to use these terms when things get heated. I understand that. If you need to step away from the other person, then do so. But if you keep the high road, I believe you’ll find these terms work great.
2. Go get the app for your phone or sign up through the website.
It’s pretty easy to do and you don’t need to buy anything here. We’ll be using the free service.
3. Open up the Evernote app.
Once the app is up and running, you’ll need to create an account. Just use your favorite email address and a password you can remember.
4. Set up Tough Questions Notebook.
Now if this is your first time, Evernote is going to want to walk you through the tour of the application capabilities. I suggest that you take the time to go through it because this little app can do a whole lot for you – save recipes, save links, take photos, you can handwrite into it and it can read it, add tags, etc…
It’s all great stuff.
But for this workshop, we want to get to the main menu so we can start adding content. So skip the tour if you want.
Once you pass the tour, you’ll be on the main homepage. You’ll see your settings, sync button, search (probably the best search I’ve seen) on the top row.
The next row of buttons are create buttons.
You can create a text note, photo note, set a reminder, make a list or chat with other people in Evernote.
What we are focused on is creating a Text Note in a Tough Questions Notebook so let’s set that up.
Click on Notebooks.
Then click on + New Notebook.
Then add the name – Tough Questions.
5. Add a Note to the Tough Questions Notebook.
Click on the Tough Questions Notebook.
Click on the + (plus sign) on the top right to add a note to the notebook.
You’ll then add the Title of the Note and the text of the note just by touching the areas where the text is.
And it should start to look like this.
If you want to change text fonts and sizes, there’s a menu when you are typing that pops up from the bottom of the screen (right above the keyboard). You’ll be able to adjust a lot of things on the text.
When you have all the text in, you’ll want to finish up by tagging the text. This will make it easier to search but isn’t necessary. The search is pretty amazing in Evernote.
Touch the “i” circle to bring up the tags.
Then add the words you think you’ll want to search this information by.
That’s basically it. Now if you have your phone with you, you’ll always have answers to those tough questions (in your own words).
One thing that I love to add is “third party” news sources for tough questions on nutrition and antibiotics. I add URLs to these notes by just copying the URL and pasting it at the bottom of the question.
I would also recommend that you don’t just copy and paste the answers to people. Use your judgment on where the conversation is going and then use the information out of Evernote to help craft your response. Remember people do fact check and double check the information you give them so always make sure it is accurate and kind.
If you have any questions, you can always reach out to me.