Five Ways to Communicate Climate-Smart Agriculture

“Climate-Smart Agriculture,” or CSA, is a popular term right now, but what exactly does it mean? The United Nations recently declared it necessary for our future food security, and now the term is starting to pop up everywhere on the agriculture and public policy stages. CSA refers to a broad category of sustainable approaches to agriculture, not one technology or strategy in particular. If you're rusty on the details (or if you're seeing them for the first time!) check out our infographics on exactly what Climate-Smart Agriculture is and where it's worked in the past.

Planet Forward’s Salon Series continued on Tuesday, Feb. 4, with a discussion of exactly how we need to communicate this complex and vital topic in order to instigate change. With speakers ranging from local farmers to drone manufacturers to students on a mission, the panel identified our biggest communication strategies that can help us secure our food future. 

Five Ways We Can Move Forward on Communicating CSA

1. Focus on the people, not the technology. Stats and numbers are great for shock value, but at the end of the day, we remember what happens to other people. Don’t get lost in the numbers: keep the focus on the person making them and what they’re doing to others.

2. Make your stories quick, clickable, and fun. We live in a Buzzfeed culture, so you have to hook people quickly with content that is engaging, relatable and entertaining. Middlebury students Benji Miller and Thomas Hyde are about to start a whirlwind tour of farms in order to make the food system more accessible to the public. Through a mixed media platform, they are hoping to draw viewers in through quick posts and videos, bringing viewers along to be part of the agricultural culture. They hope to catch their audience’s eye with the entertainment factor especially. “We’re goofy guys. We’re going to have a blast, so viewers will, too,” Benji pointed out. You have to hook people quickly to get them to pay attention in the first place.  

3. But don’t forget: people still have an attention span! After drawing in audiences through fun, quick stories, give them more to follow through with through deeply researched journalistic pieces, especially when they revolve around dynamic characters. Agriculture especially requires time to fully understand and watch it come to fruition. It’s a slow, but satisfying project that Alex de Pinto of the International Food Policy Research Institute says should never be oversimplified. Important, detailed stories deserve detailed explanations. Embed yourself in a story and do it justice.

4. Find the grapevine. When explaining someone’s story, find out how they talk to other people and who they talk to. This gives you a way to reach into their network and find what really works in a community. This can lead to all sorts of change, from a neighbor’s CSA adaptation to public policy change. As numerous panelists pointed out, this has to be an inclusive conversation within communities and audiences. If we don’t feel connected to a conversation, more often than not we dismiss it. Open it up and invite people to the table.

5. Tailor your messages to connect to each audience on their own terms. As M.J. Altman of the World Food Program explained, it’s vital to tailor your message about climate change and agriculture to your audience. A politician might need to know about the national impacts of food insecurity and the necessity of updating our system. A college student might need to understand that rising temperatures means a collapse of the avocado market, with a devastating effect on Mexican food. A farmer might need to know how new technologies affect their bottom line. Find what’s important to your audience and make its importance known!

What do you think about Climate-Smart Agriculture? Is it already in practice at farms near you? Your campus garden? Make your voice heard and

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.