Community Engagement: Ag Shows & Social Media with Northwest Harvest: Yakima Valley Produce Harvest
Because the Yakima Valley and Central Washington have a large number of commercial producers, the area hosts a variety of agricultural trade shows (ag shows) each year. These shows are an opportunity for growers and packers to talk about new research, technology, and laws that affect their businesses and to access service providers (e.g. pollination, equipment, pesticide and fertilizer, and insurance services). Most of these shows also have a section of booths for relevant nonprofits and governmental organizations. Northwest Harvest attends the Yakima Ag Expo, the Cherry Institute, and the Washington Horticultural Society shows each year, using these conferences as a method of getting the word out about our programs to potential donors. To attend ag shows in your area, contact organizers well in advance to register for a booth. Bring along business cards and a smile!
Using social media is a great way to spread the word about your program – Facebook and Twitter are great options that allow you to inform members of your community about what great things your program has accomplished. You can post an upcoming event, add pictures from an event, and include videos; volunteers can also comment about their experience on your page. Add your Facebook name or a link to your page to your advertising materials to raise awareness. After talking to community members about your program, leave behind cards with information and a link to keep volunteers or donors up to date with your gleaning project’s work.
Use video as a medium for sharing your story
Video helps you share your story in a different way. If you just had a great event, producing a video is a way to share the information in a more engaging manner. It can be as simple as recording volunteers or supervisors that were involved in the event. Write a basic script to ensure all details and important facts are included in the clips. The clips don’t need to be fancy and editing several clips together can produce a great and short video. Clips of the supervisors speaking about the total pounds picked and the impact in the community can make a simple yet extremely effective aid.
Using the media, such as newspapers, TV, and radio to share your message is a great way to touch lots of community members with information about your program. Share and publicize your events with the media. As a best practice, send out a press release several days before the event, or even the first day of a several-day event: include basic who, what, where, when, why, and how. This press release should be sent to news stations and the local paper: send it specifically to any contacts you have at those media outlets.
Not every produce recovery program will have connections with the news media; in that case, email the release to the generic breaking news email. The station or paper will get in touch with you most likely a day or two later, and on the day they are interested in interviewing or speaking with you about the event. If you don’t have an event planned, and you’re still looking to get into the media, writing a letter to the editor is a good way to accomplish this. Check the newspaper for articles that are generally related to the work of your program: ensuring that your letter is relevant to current news makes it more likely to be published.