It only took one unpleasant experience speaking with individuals at a casual dinner party to realize I needed to make a change in the way I approached socially- and emotionally-charged topics related to agriculture.

Initially, the conversation was amicable with thoughts and ideas freely exchanged. But when I mentioned that conventional and organic milk had the same nutritional value, oh my, did that set one of the guests off on a tirade against conventional farmers. I felt I needed to match her level of hysteria -- and I easily obliged!

Nothing positive was accomplished through that exchange and it left me feeling upset and angry with myself for not maintaining my composure. I missed a fantastic opportunity to at least give some thoughtful, calm insight about how every type of farmer cares for their animals and the quality of the milk they produce.

I decided to get help and get help fast! I needed to only look as far as my Farm Bureau.

Surrounded by her family, Senator Kerr is sworn in as State Senator from District 13

I began to participate in training events that offered resources and genuine experience in how to relate to people’s concerns regarding how their food is produced. I learned why I needed to keep my emotions in check, how to listen first, ask a few key questions, then calmly and factually share how we care for our cows and crops on our farm.

It took some practice shaping my message, but over time it became easier to control my own emotions and I could tell that people really were listening even when they didn’t completely agree. I no longer dread an encounter or embarrass myself. Not every conversation ends with the other person totally on board, but at least the needle moves in the right direction.

When Duty Calls

In the meantime, I became more and more involved. It really began through Arizona Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee’s events such as Legislative Ag Fest and Legislative Day at the state capitol, plus Farm Bureau trips to Washington D.C. to meet our congressional delegation. Ultimately, because of a vacant seat in my district for the upcoming election in 2018, I filed the necessary paperwork early with the Secretary of State’s office and just like that I became a candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives.

Then, in an unforeseen turn of events, Arizona Congressman Trent Franks resigned his seat, my legislative district Senator then resigned to run for the congressional seat, and our district was left with an empty senate seat. To fill the seat, three of us were nominated from the same area of the district. Each of us gave a three-minute speech with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors ultimately voting on a chosen candidate.

Their vote placed me in the Legislative District 13 senate seat formerly held by Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, who is now running for the congressional post formerly held by Representative Franks.

As I write this (January 7 th), tomorrow morning I will raise my right hand and with my left hand on my late father-in-law’s Bible, I will become the next state Senator from LD13.

When passion for your livelihood meets leadership training and preparation, there is no limit to what opportunities are available.

Farm Bureau not only teaches and trains you, they take you!

With so few of us producing our food and fiber, it is even more critical that when we have opportunities to engage with our non-farming friends, we do so in a manner that has the best chance of success to change their mind and transform their view of modern agriculture.

I encourage everyone to take advantage of the fantastic seminars and courses available through Arizona Farm Bureau on the topics of consumer engagement. It can be a real game changer for you too!

Editor’s note : Senator Kerr continues to serve as our Women’s Leadership Committee Chair. She is a recent graduate of Project CENTRL, the statewide rural leadership training program and recent graduate of American Farm Bureau Federation’s “Communication Boot Camp.” This article first appeared in the February 2018 issue of Arizona Agriculture, Arizona Farm Bureau's monthly publication. 

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