Meet Michele Payn-Knoper – A True Passion Driver

11 01 2010

The first Passion Drivers  interview of 2010 features Michele Payn-Knoper who I met virtually way back in April 2009 via Twitter. At that time, Michele had been thinking of starting an Ag chat on Twitter and started #agchat in the process. I helped Michele as she began agchat and would attend the first few chats that started. I could see the benefits of #agchat immediately to farmers and Ag businesses who participated and ever since then, Michele and the #agchat community has helped to bring @agchat to a whole new level.

Most recently, Michele (and the agchat community) was nominated for a Mashable award for “Twitter User of the Year.” In the end, Michele did not win, but it showed that the use of social media in Ag is expanding by the day and giving voice to those in the agricultural industry will continue to make an impact.

Here is Michele’s interview for Passion Drivers. She is truly a passion driver who believes in giving those in Ag an opportunity to tell their stories.

1) Tell us about yourself:

Cause Matters Corp. was founded in 2001 to help give a voice to the people who feed the world by connecting farming with food choices. Agricultural advocacy training, motivational farm keynotes and consulting for hand-selected projects related to advocacy leadership, social media strategy and rural economic development are the focus of our firm.

As a part of helping people “champion their cause”, I encourage them to connect with others’ hot buttons (AKA passions) and speak their language – whether it’s building a connection between farm gate and consumer plate, selling, fundraising, or social media. I have been honored in the last year to receive my Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a designation achieved by less than 10% of all professional speakers and to be named as one of the “25 Hot Speakers” by the National Speakers Association. Several in the #agchat community on Twitter would probably be disappointed if I didn’t mention that they were successful in nominating me as one of Mashable’s Top 5 Twitter Users of the Year. The point in all of those is that it’s an opportunity to raise agriculture’s story higher.

On a personal note, I’m a mom who is constantly challenged to balance my passions. We live in central Indiana on a small farm, complete with registered Holsteins that go back to a heifer I invested in when I was 12. And, we’re avid Michigan State fans, especially this time of year.

2) What is one thing that you are truly passionate about?

My driving passion is connecting the farm gate to the consumer plate and building communities to support that passion.

3) What encouraged you to follow this passion?

Growing up milking cows and learning that my friends didn’t understand (or care) where their milk came from started raising flags. Like many others, I learned a variety of life lessons at state and national levels in FFA and 4-H, but the most notable was a love for speaking as I competed on stage at the Michigan State FFA Convention. Experiences at Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture encouraged me while I earned Bachelor degrees in Animal Science and Ag Communications. Unfortunately, my mind was also shaped as I watched activists try to burn down our Animal Science building and Agriculture Hall on campus.  Early in my career I had the opportunity to work with executives from across the agrifood business and I saw a common denominator of needing to educate people about modern day agriculture. Coupled with my on-farm experiences, it became obvious to me about a decade ago that agriculture needed to do a better job of connecting with the 98.5% of our population or we lose the opportunity to do what we love. I believe we have responsibility to protect agriculture as a cornerstone of society, defend our national security, feed an increasingly hungry world population and give people the choices they deserve – both as business owners and consumers.  That belief fuels my passion every day!

4) What do you want others to know about your passion?

Please get to know the people who raise your food, fuel, feed and fiber – and don’t assume one food label is superior to another. 1.5% of the U.S. population farm and they are constantly discredited by activist organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, Greenpeace and others.  Talk to a farmer before you believe misinformation.  Farmers want you to know that they work to make more food on less land with better environmental and animal care practices. We, as an agricultural industry, MUST find ways to work together to get that message out. This is why I’ve come to believe in social media so much; I have seen agriculture come together as a community, identifying & educating consumers about critical issues. More importantly, it opens up a dialogue – something sorely needed if farmers want to put a face on the plate and if consumers are ready to grow their food literacy.

5) Anything else you would like to share?

Simply put “look beyond your own food plate.” Connect, ask questions or learn more at:

Many thanks to Michele for taking time to answer these questions and I hope you learn more about what makes Michele a true passion driver. Go out and be a passion driver yourself. Until next time.




One response

11 01 2010


Really like the passion drivers blog. Loving what you do is a large part of being happy… not only in your job, but in life. Hope that these interviews help people see you really can have a job you love and work for your passion. Michele is a great example of that and it is always cool to see her featured.

If I can be of help, let me know.
-Sabrina (@fastline)

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