Britany Hurst joined the Idaho Wheat Commission on December 1, 2017 as the Communications and Grower Education Manager.  Britany grew up amid wheat and potato fields in the Mini-Cassia area of south-central Idaho.  She relocated to Boise after high school to attend Boise State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science.

“You find a lot of multi-generational family businesses in agriculture,” Hurst said.  “For my family, our multi-generational family business is public service.  I grew up in politics, and from a surprisingly young age knew I wanted to be a lobbyist.  I had that opportunity, and I really loved it, but there’s so much misinformation out there about food and nutrition, and that misinformation is hurting Idaho agriculture.  We need more committed individuals to communicate accurate information and disseminate that information to consumers, and I’m excited to do that for Idaho’s wheat industry.”

Prior to joining IWC, Hurst spent more than six years with the Idaho Cattle Association, where she served as Communications Director, lobbyist, and Environmental Policy Director.  She also held a seat on agriculture-related committees, including the Idaho Freight Advisory Committee which focuses on Idaho’s infrastructure and the transportation of state commodities via roads, rail, and water.  She represented the cattle industry with Food Producers of Idaho, and was a member of the cattle industry’s national environmental working group.

“I had the opportunity to be involved in the process for Idaho to obtain primacy over the Pollutant Discharge and Elimination System program from the very beginning, which will be great for Idaho.  Any time we can bring regulatory authority back to the state, it’s a good thing.”  Hurst continued, “I have cultivated relationships and adopted mentors from industry partners across agriculture, and I bring that network with me to wheat.”

Hurst understands the importance of communicating to both consumers and growers.  “Consumers want to know from where their food comes, so sharing those stories with the public builds a bridge.  My responsibility is to empower growers and inform consumers.”  How will she do that?  “Well, I’m a Millennial, so I understand how that generation communicates.  But I’m on the older end of that generational class—I read that we’re calling it the micro generation—and from rural Idaho, and have spent years in agriculture, so I understand how to educate and communicate with growers and consumers and all the social segments within those groups.”

As disconnect between those who grow the food we eat and the millennial mom in the urban supermarket continues to grow, agriculture doesn’t have time to be reactionary.  “We have to be proactive in our message.  We always tell farmers and ranchers to ‘tell their story’, but they don’t have the time to spend hours a day at the computer competing with the anti-agriculture crowd.  These men and women are working from sun up to sun down growing the food that we eat and the food that feeds families all over the world.  They have kids and grandkids and they care about the quality of food they feed their families and they care just as much about the quality of food you and I feed our families.”

Opening avenues of dialogue is key.  Growers need to know the latest information on research and crop varieties, market development, and demand.  Consumers need to know that wheat is part of a healthy diet and gluten isn’t bad for the majority of the population.   Consumers need to know that farmers are feeding wheat to their families and it’s safe and nutritious for the urban family as well. The public needs to know that protecting the environment is absolutely essential to wheat production, and farmers are employing new methods through science and technology and years of research to increase crop quality and environmental stewardship.

“Social media is the thing we all love to hate,” Hurst said.  “We’ve become a society that “lives” on social media.  In order to stay viable and be part of the conversation, we have to be present in the online vortex.  We have to be proactive and accurate in our messaging.  That’s what I’m here for.”