About a year ago, I was mentally preparing to soon become a college graduate. With that comes thoughts of wondering what my next steps would be. I had already chosen my place as an agriscientist since before my undergrad career, but I knew I still wanted more experience in ag communications.
I had always planned on using public relations to communicate agriculture to marginalized communities. This includes promoting agricultural literacy to those who have the least access to it and highlighting communities in agriculture we don’t normally see represented. This also includes bridging the gap between rural and urban communities for a mutual understanding of this complex system.
Its important for folks who lack ag literacy to develop the skills necessary to make their own conscious and educated decisions regarding food and environmental decisions. It’s also just as important for people in agriculture to be aware of the social aspects they often miss when they think of the industry.
Though I had an idea, I didn’t know when, where, or how to start. In a world where thousands of people already have their own blogs, social media pages and other platforms to promote themselves, I didn’t know how to gain traction to such a niche audience.
While scrolling through LinkedIn last December, I saw AGDAILY was looking for a Diversity Issues Intern. Upon reading the job description, I realized this is what I needed. I never thought I would actually find an opportunity that comprised all of my areas of study. An agricultural journalism service that wanted to focus on topics related to diversity and social issues was just up my alley as a crop science and ethnic studies double major with a minor in journalism.
Fortunately for me, the folks at AGDAILY and American Farmland Trust gave me the opportunity to be their first diversity issues intern. Creating content and helping represent them brought me many great experiences. It allowed me meet some amazing people from all over the world, travel across the country, enhanced my journalism skills, and, more importantly, allowed me to broaden my horizons by learning more about different people and hearing their life experiences.
For me, the best part in meeting all these people and sharing their stories was knowing that I’m doing what I wanted by giving representation to communities in agriculture we don’t typically hear of. Without doing work like this, such communities and their stories would continue to go unnoticed.
Upon writing for the AGDAILY, I knew some of my content would receive some criticism, backlash from certain people for their reasons — which I’m fine with. If sharing stories about the existence of real life people in agriculture upset people, then I think I did something right. Negative comments just means more engagement anyways is how I always thought of it.
I think my greatest takeaway this year was the importance of understanding others. It’s one thing to listen to someone, but it’s another thing to truly understand them.
Everyone is formed from their own experiences and has a story to tell. But most importantly, everybody wants their stories to truly be heard and felt by others. Allowing someone the opportunity to be heard makes the world of a difference for them. But it also makes a difference for myself and my readers as well. There’s only so much research one can do to understand people, but the authenticity and humanity in one’s stories cannot be looked up on a search engine.
Despite my year as our diversity issues intern coming to an end, it doesn’t mean the end of writing for me and certainly doesn’t mean the end of my activism. I still plan to do exactly what I do now with my writing and maybe step up my game in multiplatform storytelling (i.e. photography, videography, podcast).
Ultimately, I hope my work made someone out there feel something at some point. I hope one of my pieces got someone out there to smile, to feel represented, to feel heard. I hope someone learned something from me and motivated them to keep learning. Representation matters, and I hope my work helps explain why.
Saul Reyes served as the 2022 American Farmland Trust Agriculture Communications Intern at AGDAILY, with a focus on helping to amplify diversity and minority voices in agriculture. An FFA alum, Reyes is a graduate of California State University-Chico and double majored in plant and soil science and multicultural and gender studies, while minoring in intersectional Chicanx/Latinx studies and public relations. He can be found on Twitter @sreyes710.