Carter & Co. Ag Communications: Telling the story of Central Valley agriculture…naturally!
Holly Carter, owner of Carter & Co. Ag Communications (Carter & Co. Ag), has a passionate enthusiasm for agriculture. For her, it’s not only a business, but a desire to help the industry tell its story. She makes it a point to incorporate the advocacy of agriculture with each of her clients.
Carter’s Ag interest led her to apply for (and be accepted into) Fresno County Farm Bureau’s Future Advocates for Agriculture Concerned about Tomorrow (FAACT) development program in 2013-14.
“The class helped me wrap my brain around the many issues the Ag industry faces,” Carter explained. After the class was finished, Carter felt the need to continue to stay involved with the Farm Bureau. “I want to do anything and everything I can to help support California Agriculture,” Carter stated. Carter & Co. Ag demonstrated that support when it became a Friends of the Family Farm sponsor at the end of 2014.
Carter has been involved in the local community for many years. Upon graduating from California State University, Fresno in 2008, she spent a year as a legislative intern at Congressman George Radanovich’s office. This experience helped her realize the significant power legislators have to positively and directly impact the lives of citizens. “I saw some amazing things during my year at the Congressional office. I have so much respect for the work they do for their constituents,” Carter stated.
In 2008, Carter was recruited by the Republican Party of Fresno County to run local elections and help with statewide ballot propositions as well as the presidential race. In early 2009, Carter was recruited and later hired by a Southern California based public affairs firm where she served as the Central Valley Director, representing the company in eight counties. This experience, along with a diagnosis of advanced cancer, led Carter to eventually open her own public affairs firm, Carter & Co. Communications, in 2010.
“I decided then that I wanted to live the rest of my life doing what I was most passionate about… telling the stories of businesses in a way that connects them intimately with their target audience,” Carter said. The strategic communications company specializes in crisis communications, public affairs and strategic growth planning to help businesses identify gaps and opportunities to scale their businesses. “It is truly business development for the 21st Century,” Carter explained.
Through her experience at Carter & Co., Carter began specializing in agriculture and represented companies such as Olam and the Fresno Grizzlies Farm Grown campaign. She found that there was a huge disconnect between agriculture and the local community. This drove Carter to create an ag division of her company that was launched in spring of 2014. The Ag division’s simply-stated mission is: “Telling the story of California Agriculture… Naturally.”
Carter has made it a priority to understand the key issues in the industry. “We want to stay in the trenches and continue to stay focused on telling the story of Central Valley Agriculture.”
In any given work week, you can find Carter and her staff on the dirt roads throughout the Central Valley interviewing farmers about their unique challenges which they then turn into blogs which are shared on their website and social media. Carter said, “The farmers we are interviewing are located all over the Valley. We are getting their stories first hand and doing what we can to positively define the story of California agriculture.”
Carter & Co. Ag has three full-time staff members, but works with dozens of freelance contractors that are on-call at all times. The company’s primary focus is the Central Valley, but they have clients throughout the state.
Additionally, the company is very interested in educating college students by providing paid internships. The Carter & Co. Ag. competitive Scholar internship program is open to qualified college students interested in learning the about public affairs and crisis communications in the Agricultural sector.
Carter and her team spend their days monitoring the media, researching, writing and meeting with clients, stakeholders and the media. The amount of reading done by the team is significant. They cite the importance for the team to stay abreast of the complexity of issues the industry faces.
One current goal for Carter is to help the agriculture sector understand the importance of new media. “In order for agriculture to define itself, we must come together so we can tell our story. The process (currently in place) is no longer working and it has to be changed,” said Carter. “I hear over and over from farmers that they don’t know how to communicate in a way that gets them the results they want.”
Carter stresses that it’s important for farmers and ranchers to let their voices be heard. “We need to connect the dots between the available resources so we can help farmers and ag related businesses tell their stories. In the PR world, the rule is to define or be defined… the ag industry has allowed others to define us. It must stop now,” Carter added.
Day in and day out, the company focuses on creating solutions and telling its clients’ stories to their target audiences. Carter & Co. Ag takes an inside out approach when working with clients by first identifying the "why" behind the brand. "People don't buy your what, they buy your why.” Carter explains. “We find the ‘why’… and the ‘what’ sells itself.”
They "also protect their clients’ brand equity through the development of a crisis communication plan and media training seminars. One of the most recent additions to their suite of services is “Violence in the Workplace Prevention Training.” The average violence in the workplace incident, according to OSHA, costs an average of $800,000. Carter explained, “Our clients are seeing an increase of crime at the workplace and they are not prepared to manage it.”
Carter strives to educate local leaders about Central Valley agriculture. Her hope is to bring the industry together as one body to demand a seat at the table in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. before legislation is written that has an adverse effect on our region.
“We are all family here in the Valley; there is no such thing as ag and non-ag in the Central Valley”, said Carter. “Everything we do as leaders should take into consideration the effect it will have on agriculture.”
Friends of the Family Farm Spotlight Profile: Ag Today, Aug. 15
By: Courtney Sorensen