Bull Semen and Cow Beauty Pageants…

By Michele Payn

When I was 23 years old, I sold bull semen and cow embryos. Somehow people outside of farming find that to be quite funny. They bust into full-fledged laughter when I describe my airplane conversations around answering the question "so how do they get the semen?" which was always the first question after I explained my job.

I didn't understand the humor in semen and embryos for quite some time; I thought it was quite serious business to know the cow families and breeders well enough to be able to adequately represent U.S. genetics. Likewise, it's back-breaking work to get show cattle ready. However, I find myself explaining dairy shows as cow beauty pageants, complete with the tubs we use as toilets while our sprayed and glittered cattle walk to the show ring (runway) - and people always start snickering.

Humor evokes emotion. Emotion results in human connection. Connection piques curiosity. We don't have to explain the complex business of farming in one line; we simply have to create a human connection. Laughter is a big part of that, so how can you explain our farm and ranch world in a way that makes it humorous - and relatable - to the general public?

This was one of the greatest challenges I faced in writingFood Truths from Farm to Table, but I found that people's responses to little snippets would immediately give me an idea to what was funny outside of the farm or ranch world. Many times these were discovered through regular conversation, sending out a tweet or mentioning it on Facebook.

There's a lot of stress in the world today. People want to feel good about their food and connecting on a human level helps ease some of the tension. Consumers may not care about the pedigrees of selling bull semen, but they do care about the reproductive advancements bovines have brought to humans. How can you describe what you do or a practice that will beg for a question to be asked like "how do they get it?" in my selling semen example?

For example, if you grow hazelnuts in Oregon, you can say you are a Nutella grower. Or rather than describing yourself as a monogastric nutritionist, could you claim the title 'pig dietitian'? When we can evoke a question, we connect on a human level. That leads to curiosity, which gives you an opportunity to have a conversation as the other person starts asking questions.

Keep it simple and relate on their terms, even if it means you have to describe cow beauty pageants. Your ability to take complex subjects and turn them into "normal" reference points is the ultimate test. If you succeed, the end result will be a conversation that leads to a consumer who thinks of you when they go to the grocery store!


Michele Payn lives on a small farm in west central Indiana, where she and her daughter enjoy all things pink while working with their Holsteins. Michele speaks from the intersection of farm and food, helping thousands of people around the world through her keynotes, books and training programs. Visit www.causematters.com  or connect with @mpaynspeaker on social media channels. Her second book, Food Truths from Farm to Table  , is expected early 2017.

Copyright© 2016 Cause Matters Corp. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction granted for PinkTractor.com.

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