Jackson and Amanda Dorst with family

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Strengthening communication skills to share farmer stories

June 28, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

If anyone is going to tell their farming story, it should be Jackson and Amanda Drost.

The couple from Mahaska County says they are best positioned to tell the story of agriculture, not someone from outside the farm.

“People want to hear from farmers themselves, they are the experts,” Amanda says. “If we don’t share these stories, who will?”

Down on the farm

The Drosts’ story begins with Jackson and his father, who used to carry Jackson in his diaper bag out into the field.

“I think I was born into farming,” he jokes.

Eventually, Jackson outgrew the diaper bag and grew up working alongside his father and extended family operating multiple farms outside of New Sharon.

Over time, Jackson and Amanda met, married in 2012 and grew their own family and farming operation.

“About two-thirds of the farm we have corn, about one-third soybeans and we have cover crops on about two-thirds of our acres,” says Jackson.

Those cover crops, the family’s dedication to agriculture and environment, as well as outreach to the community has not gone unnoticed.

Jackson was named the Peoples Company’s 2023 Farmer of the Year, which he received earlier this year at the Land Investment Expo in Des Moines.

Kyle Walker, the Peoples Company director of land management says Jackson is a testament to doing things that are best for protecting the environment.

The award “goes to an individual with integrity, honesty; a farmer that produces well and does things the right way with sustainability and conservation,” says Walker.

Walker manages the Blanche Johnson Trust Farm, which Jackson and his family has rented over the past few years.

They have worked to incorporate conservation practices and make general improvements to the land, providing Walker with weekly updates.

“It was the inaugural award,” Jackson says, pointing out that he was nervous about receiving the award and having to speak before a large audience at the Land Investment Expo when accepting the honor.

But there are no nerves for either Jackson or Amanda when they’re asked to speak about their farm or agriculture in general.

Crafting their communication skills

Amanda joined the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) Communications Squad in 2023.

“Farmers take immense pride in being a part of the agriculture world, and rightfully so. But there are many people who are not as closely connected to agriculture. That’s why having the skills to be an effective spokesperson for their operations and industry is so important,” says Brock Johnston, ISA’s public relations manager. Johnston manages the ISA Communications Squad.

“Whether it’s a curious consumer or a local reporter, the public wants to hear directly from farmers about their industry,” Johnston says.

ISA’s Communications Squad program is designed to help farmers sharpen these skills so they can share their farm story, address industry misconceptions, engage with consumers, advocate for pro-farmer policies and more, according to Johnston.

Six farmers expanding their comm abilities

Though Amanda works full-time in public relations for a hospital, Amanda joined ISA Communications Squad to sharpen her skills in communicating her work in agriculture.

Recently, the Drosts hosted a bus tour of about 25 people and highlighted their farming operation, talking about the importance of agriculture and discussing what products come from soybeans.

“It was just fun to be a part of that and tell our story,” Amanda says.

She also spoke on WHO Radio and “The Big Show” on behalf of Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) and discussed raising kids on the farm.

“The Communications Squad training really helped us prepare for these events,” Amanda says.

Next steps

Jackson and Amanda have also participated in ISA’s Trade Team Task Force. Paired with involvement in ISA Communications Squad, the trainings and experiences has helped the couple effectively share their story.

“I didn’t fully realize what ISA does until we became more involved,” Jackson says, pointing out he and Amanda are now more effective in sharing agriculture information with both consumers and fellow farmers.

Both Amanda and Jackson are insistent that sharing their story is as critical to their success as protecting the land they have been charged with caring for.

“People need to start explaining their stories and talking about their livelihoods on the farm,” Jackson says. “I don’t think people realize how we have sustainable, renewable products from corn and soybeans. You’ve got to be able to communicate that information. A lack of communication is negative and staying silent isn’t going to tell the whole story of agriculture.”

For more information about Communications Squad, go to iasoybeans.com/programs/communications-squad.