In a fast-paced world of social media and constantly evolving news, farmers more than ever need to be able to answer tough questions and articulate the value of their work in the agriculture industry. The American Farm Bureau Federation hosted its annual communications boot camp in Washington, D.C. earlier this autumn to take a proactive stance on developing their members’ ag communications skills.

New England was well represented at this four-day event where women in agriculture from across the country learn to become “agvocates.” Meghan Gennings from Massachusetts Farm Bureau was selected as one of the 2023 delegates for this session and has brought a wealth of knowledge back to her home state and beyond to effectively discuss the impact of agriculture at the local level.

The AFBF’s Women’s Leadership Committee spearheaded this initiative to help its members serve as even bigger assets to the ag community by developing their communications skills. Workshops at the conference provided space for like-minded women to enhance their skills in public speaking, media and writing. The goal was for delegates to leave feeling more prepared to join and lead local media campaigns and speak to elected officials about the important role agriculture plays in everyone’s lives.

Gennings is a 4-H and FFA alumna who went on to earn her degree in animal science from UMass. She now works for UMass as a lab instructor within the Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences. During her time at school, she met representatives from the MA Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers group and joined. Since then, she has been an active member of the organization and used her position to apply for the 2023 Communications Bootcamp.

Becoming an agvocate: Communications Boot Camp with AFBF

Meghan Gennings (center) is already planning on ways to share what she learned at the boot camp. Photo courtesy of AFBF

Some of her favorite workshops from the conference included Content & Messaging, Public Speaking Delivery, Speaking with Congressional Representatives, Tackling Tough Topics, Radio & Television Interviewing and Social Media. The workshops addressed topics like sustainability, farmer mental health and the Farm Bill.

“Effective communication by those of us who are directly involved in agriculture is the key to consumer trust,” noted Gennings. “Agvocating goes beyond presenting an idealized picture of farming; it requires authenticity to be truly effective. By providing real, transparent insights into the challenges and triumphs of agriculture, we can foster a deeper connection between farmers and consumers, ultimately strengthening trust in the food we all rely on.”

In her short time back from the conference, Gennings has already been able to share her new knowledge throughout her community. She has brought her experiences to the students she works with at UMass and has plans to attend the MA Farm Bureau Annual Meeting to continue the discussion in agvocating and to encourage more local women to apply and attend.

In reflecting on her experience, she noted that we are all consumers of agriculture in some way. People who are directly involved in the production of agricultural commodities need to be able to communicate how they do something and why they do something to provide insight and perspective to those not directly involved.

The Communications Boot Camp application process consists of essay questions with self-reflection on the process of becoming an effective communicator and commitment to applying the learned skills after the conference. Interested applicants need to be involved in their local Farm Bureau chapter and can apply for the spring session this December. Learn more at

Gennings noted that one of her biggest takeaways from this conference was to expect the unexpected: “Preparedness leads to confidence.  Knowing your topic and knowing your audience are the best ways to feel comfortable and find your voice.”

by Hannah Majewski