Oh the Power of Networking
As I traveled the country attending agricultural conferences, seminars, and food system events, I have found there’s power in networking. What is networking? Networking is the ability of interacting with others exchanging information and possibly developing a professional or social contact. In my line of work, networking can extend beyond into a circle of resource speakers, possible collaboration on future projects and future career opportunities.
For instance, ten years ago I attended the USDA Small Farms Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During the luncheon, I met Mr. Bobby Wilson, an Extension Agent with the University of Georgia Extension System. As we discussed each other passion, activities, and engagement with the agriculture community it was discovered we had a lot of things in common. During this time, I stated Mr. Wilson you should be a one resource speakers at our upcoming farmers workshop. Fast forward years later through our assistance and support, Mr. Wilson has started his own non-profit organization Metro Atlanta Urban Farm. We have worked on various projects, co-hosting events, and have been making a greater impact together assisting socially disadvantaged farmers and landowners in Georgia and Alabama. On April 11-12, 2019, we co-hosted our first Produce Safety Alliance Growers Training Program and a Good Agricultural Practices Farm Field Day, in Atlanta, Georgia. We were able to educate (35) socially disadvantaged limited resource farmers and non-profit organization. Over the years, we have been able to educate and empower farmers and landowners on various issues around food desserts, food system/safety, risk management strategies, business development, and emerging agricultural issues. Our relationship extended from networking, partnership to mentorship. As an experience educator, he has given me a great wealth of knowledge and advice guiding me through my career. His words of wisdom have extended far beyond just work but for life in general.
Another prime example is participating in the Food System Leadership Network (FSLN). Through the FSLN program, I have been able to sharpen my skills on various issues in the food system, other agricultural issues and broaden my knowledge base on modules and templates to strengthen my program. I have been able interact with some topnotch leaders, gain exposure and solutions on some quite challenging issues throughout the food system. I must admit networking is not always easy, but the reward is greater than sacrifice. Networking is necessary to evolve and sustain any program or business. If you’re not much of networker, here’s some tips to get you started.
- Be Open to Meeting New People- Focus on building relationship, then diving into an agenda. I believe in authentic energy so if you’re open to meeting new people you shall. This is where getting to know someone is critical. Whether its attending conference or even though your professional work circles it’s up to you to get to know someone through conservation and interaction.
- Quality vs. Quantity- The olde cliché “It’s not who you know, but what you know.” So make sure you meet and interact with quality people who fuel your passion. Someone you can learn from and they can learn from you. Be intentional with wanting to learn more about the individual before you meet them. In most setting, you can then target in on meeting and interacting with these people that appear to have similar interest and others you admire their work.
- Building Trust and Good Rapport- Once you meet someone it’s not a guarantee they will be your next BFF (Best Friend Forever), but it does give you opportunity to learn more about them building trust and respect. Interaction needs to be handled with care and organically. At the end of the day, building strong relationship do not happen overnight but it’s through time and long in-depth organic conversation. Your Vibe attract your tribe.
Cheers to Building New and Meaningful Relationship-Oh the power of Networking, start here and go anywhere. If you have some exceptional networking tips, please share.