SPRINGFIELD – The keynote speaker at this year’s annual convention of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs believes fairs can live their brand while making a large impact on the communities they serve.
“If you plan on being average or below average, then agriculture is not for you,” Aaron Alejandro told the crowd at the IAAF Saturday breakfast meeting.
Alejandro serves as director of the Texas FFA which has around 119,000 members. The Texas FFA Foundation recorded over $9.5 million in endowment and financial assets which was a 159 percent net asset growth since Alejandro joined the organization in 2000.
“Pay attention to what you say because people are listening,” Alejandro said. “You are opening doors and opportunities at the local level.”
Raised as a city boy, Alejandro had life experiences which led to opportunity and career success, many of which included expos and fairs. Alejandro challenged fair board members and leaders to compete for the minds of young people. He believes young people are “where it’s at” and they need to be encouraged in order for this country to remain great.
“If we are not competing for minds, we are going to lose. We’ve got to get in the game.”
Alejandro noted the power of social media which continues to change the world. More than 60 percent of all adults are on Facebook each day. He suggests fairs and others in ag create a social media presence, otherwise there could be a noticeable absence.
“Are you part of the dialogue? They’ve got to hear from you,” Alejandro added.
The message of agriculture can be improved in local communities by utilizing social media. Likes, shares or comments on Facebook are almost like virtual high-fives in Alejandro’s opinion.
“We’ve got to get smarter about what we put out to the public.”
Social media is now considered the number one source of food information for consumers over all other forms of media. This gives fairs and those in agriculture a chance to jump in and be a part of the dialogue.
Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Raymond Poe also addressed the annual IAAF convention, saying county fairs represent an opportunity to showcase the state’s top industry.
“You guys share the great passion of agriculture as much as I do,” Poe said. “We’ll continue to fight for every dollar.”
Poe urged fair leaders to invite their local state representatives to fairs each summer to show them what is being done for the economy of Illinois.