Talking farming without the ‘farmspeak’

by Jonathan Eisenthal


CommonGround Minnesota volunteers Lauren Biegler (right) and Rebekah Gustafson (center) talk with attendees at MN Ag EXPO 2016.

You know what an ‘elevator’ is—it’s a grain storage facility.

An ‘operation’? It’s a farming entity comprising all the pieces of land, buildings and equipment you and your family and partners use to raise crops and livestock.

But for people who don’t farm or have an ag background, a large percentage of the population, those words can have an entirely different meaning.

An elevator carries people up and down to different floors of a building. An operation is what happens in a hospital. And when a farmer talks about a “combine”, it can be confusing if you’re not familiar with agriculture lingo.

Rebekah Gustafson and Lauren Biegler have devoted lots of time and energy to telling the story of agriculture—they are among 22 farm women who volunteer with CommonGround Minnesota. CommonGround is a group of farm women who connect with consumers about food and farming.

Biegler, Gustafson, and more than 75 other farm women volunteers from across the U.S. recently attended the National CommonGround Grassroots Conference in Washington D.C. There they had the opportunity to learn about the latest consumer research, hear experiences from other volunteers and staff, and more. One of the standout topics from the conference for both Biegler and Gustafson was the discussion about ‘farmspeak’.

“It was a helpful reminder for me to pay attention to how I use farm terminology in conversations. That can be hard to do and it takes some practice,” says Biegler, who farms with her husband near Lake Wilson.

Gustafson raises corn, soybeans, hay and horses with her husband on their farm near Osceola. She says when you cut out the ‘farmspeak’, it’s easier to talk to people about their food and how it gets from field to fork.

CGMN at the CG National Conference

CommonGround Minnesota volunteers and staff attended the CommonGround National Grassroots Conference Jan. 20-22, 2016.

“Farmers are growing safe, affordable, and healthy food. But sometimes that information can get lost in translation,” says Gustafson. “We throw out all this lingo in our conversations— ‘no-till’ and ‘farrow-to-finish’ for example. Not everybody may know what those terms mean.”

In addition to all the informational sessions, the National CommonGround Conference was also an opportunity for attendees to connect and network with other volunteers and staff from across the country.

“We talk (with other volunteers) through social media all the time, but it was nice to finally see everyone in person,” says Biegler. “It’s great to meet other women who are just as passionate about ag advocacy as I am and to share experiences and ideas. It energizes you.”

CommonGround is a joint program of the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates. More than 160 women from 20 states are involved in CommonGround.  Learn more at or like CommonGround Minnesota on Facebook.

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