Community Catalyst. Advocate. Farm & Food Connector.
Michele Payn-Knoper personifies passion. Known as one of North America’s leading farm and food advocates, she serves as a resource for people interested in agriculture and food through speaking and community building programs. Michele encourages all of her clients and audiences to connect with people’s hot buttons and speak their language – whether it’s building a connection between farm gate and food plate, developing corporate sponsorships or growing advocacy. Widely known as a “change agent,” MPK delivers advocacy training programs and motivational keynotes to empower organizations to build connected communities.
Utilizing her diverse professional experience in the agricultural, sales and not-for-profit sectors, Michele founded Cause Matters Corp., a company designed to build connections around the food plate, in 2001. Cause Matters Corp. focuses on agricultural advocacy, social media strategy, community engagement and growing a food movement. In each of these four core areas, MPK helps organizations clearly identify issues, understand their audience and connect solutions. Michele’s goal is to help you communicate “why your cause matters.”
She knows agriculture because she lives agriculture. Payn-Knoper holds degrees in Agricultural Communications and Animal Science from Michigan State University, where she is past president of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Alumni Association and had her work featured in a Spartan Saga. Career highlights include a Regional Directorship for the National FFA Foundation, where she sold over $5 million in corporate sponsorships and led campaigns to develop community support for various Foundation expansions. She has also marketed and sold dairy genetics to more than 25 countries, managed e-business accounts and presented training programs in developing countries. Michele still holds her firsthand farm experience as the best contributor to her work as an agvocate.
Farm girl. Mom. Food & cow lover.
Her lifelong passion for agriculture stems from childhood; she has been breeding and judging dairy cattle as a registered Holstein breeder since the age of nine and now resides on a small central Indiana farm. She enjoys working on the farm with her daughter, making memories with friends, traveling, coaching 4-H/FFA members and cheering on the Michigan State Spartans.
Michele has been baking since she was a young girl, but became a full-fledged foodie when she lived in Italy for a summer. She recently authored “No More Food Food Fights! Growing a Productive Farm & Food Conversation” to encourage farm and food people to reach across the plate to find commonalities. This two-sided book features more than 35 contributors from across the States and Canada.
MPK’s strong belief in community-building and overcoming food insecurity stems from experience on four continents, including working the Ukraine and Egypt, through United States Agency for International Development (USAID) projects. She’s also active in her central Indiana community, volunteering with FFA, 4-H, church and school.
Payn-Knoper continues to hone her skills after helping thousands of people around the world. As a member of the National Speakers Association, Michele is the founder of a professional networking group for generation X and Y speakers. She has earned her Certified Speaking Professional, a designation awarded to less than 8% of professional speakers around the world.
Michele founded #AgChat and #FoodChat, a weekly moderated discussion on Twitter, in April 2009. Thousands of people from 15 countries have used the tag associated with this highly visible conversation around food and farm issues. Topics are community driven and have included animal welfare, biotechnology, food labeling, sustainability and translating science. The most popular chat, farmers answering consumer questions, generated 3.1 million unique impressions in three hours. This same community nominated Michele as one of Mashable’s Top Three Twitter User’s of the Year in 2009, putting agriculture alongside celebrities.
MPK measures success in conversations around the food plate by people who are willing to reach out to help make their cause matter. In celebration of this, Cause Matters Corp. awarded 10 food and ag organizations grants on its 10th anniversary. Learn more by connecting with Michele on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube or Pinterest.