Agriculture is unique because everyone experiences it differently — everyone has their own stories to tell. At the intersection of agriculture and storytelling stands David Jordan, whose passion for these two things helped him embrace his identity, as well as others.
Jordan is an openly gay man and newly minted president of Milwaukee-based advertising agency, Bader Rutter, which works heavily in the agricultural and rural lifestyle sectors.
“Agriculture is so important to me,” he said. “It’s always been a part of my life.”
Jordan grew up in Central Illinois, where he and his sister were involved in their community’s 4-H and FFA chapters. Opportunities in public speaking allowed Jordan to be confident in himself and his place in FFA. This sparked his passion for animal sciences — specifically in dairy cattle, communication, and public speaking.
His passion for the power of storytelling prompted him to obtain his bachelor’s degree in agricultural communication and leadership development from Illinois State University, which helped lead him to his current career in marketing.
Jordan’s journey was not without its difficulties. As a gay man in agriculture, he said it was hard to see himself in the industry. He could not envision a successful career in agriculture when he didn’t see others like him who were excelling in this industry.
“It was not until around my junior year at my college internship where I had met a gay person in agriculture,” he said. “For the first time, I had seen someone like me in these spaces. It was the first time I learned it was OK.”
Despite this, Jordan still struggled early in his career to find where he truly felt he belonged, he said. But this started to change when he joined Bader Rutter 19 years ago.
“When I first started here, I was struggling with being a professional and a gay man in agriculture,” he said. “I wondered, ‘Could I be an ag leader and a gay man?’”
Now, he’s found a place in a company where he can do what he loves as he is — sharing the story of agriculture as an openly gay man. “I have a great love for ag, but I also know who I am,” he said.
Jordan understands his existence as a gay White man is nothing new in the marketing industry. It is for this reason, that he believes he can use the power of storytelling in marketing to help other young, diverse, and marginalized people discover that there is a place for them in spaces like agriculture as well.
“I’m not a rare unicorn,” he said. “But, I can be a voice for others in the industry.”
Jordan uses his identity and leadership skills to help amplify minority voices in the workplace. This includes confronting questions like “How do we confront diversity-related issues that transcend businesses?” and “How do we show up for our customers?”
Employees at Bader Rutter are invited to have conversations on what they feel they need to know more about as leaders, said Jordan. “What topics as a modern marketing agency do we need to talk about?”
As part of the company’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative, Bader Rutter has a four-step system for social progress: learn more, listen hard, change faster, and give more.
Bader Rutter also offers internship and scholarship opportunities for its local, diverse communities aimed at providing young people opportunities and exposure to career opportunities in fields like agriculture and marketing.
Jordan is not the only one happy with the progress being made in diversity and inclusion at Bader Rutter. Kate Daniels, senior accounting executive in their PR department can compete with their progress.
“I love that we have tangible commitments,” Daniels said. “It’s great to have an opportunity to show young people what their opportunities are in life.”
As a leader in agriculture, Jordan wants everyone to know it is OK to be who you are.
Jordan recalls a moment in 2021 when he was at a national dairy convention and a mother of a gay son told him his online presence as a dairy cattle enthusiast helped his son understand its OK for him to be his true self and that there’s a place for LGBTQ+ people in the ag industry.
“This was a very rewarding moment in my life,” he said. “We don’t realize the impact we can have with an online presence.”
Jordan is hopeful for the future of diversity and agriculture. “Progress made, does not mean progress is complete,” he said.
“As leaders, we have an obligation to support our youth by introducing them to careers in industries such as agriculture so they can see how great it is,” he said. “We need to support young diverse people in these fields so we can continue to tell the story of agriculture and feed the world.”
Jordan hopes that he can leave behind a legacy of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, he said. “I hope to leave the idea that to fully serve our clients and teammates, we need to be sure we work in a safe environment for everyone to be themselves.”
Saul Reyes serves as the 2022 American Farmland Trust Agriculture Communications Intern at AGDAILY, with a focus on helping to amplify diversity and minority voices in agriculture. An FFA alum, Reyes is a student at California State University-Chico and is double majoring in plant and soil science and multicultural and gender studies, while minoring in intersectional Chicanx/Latinx studies and public relations. He can be found on Twitter @sreyes710.