Category Archives: Agriculture

5 Apps for Ag Communicators

Smartphones have turned from a fab way to make phone calls, text and play games to a tool used to maximize your business. My first smartphone was an iPhone 3GS. I didn’t jump on the bandwagon right out the gate simply because I was a poor college student and had to wait for my first decent paying job to make the purchase. When I did I quickly started downloading apps like Facebook, Pandora, Weather Channel and lots of games. I used my iPhone for pure entertainment.

Now, I have an iPhone 4 and as I flip through my apps I still find a few go-to-games, but I see myself using more apps that serve a purpose. That purpose for me is being an agriculture communicator. I would like to share with you a few apps to help you work from your phone and spread the message about the wonderful world of agriculture.

1.  HoursTracker

  • Price – $2.99 or a FREE Lite Edition
  • DetailsHoursTracker easily tracks your working time and earnings with a streamlined, easy-to-use interface great for use on the go. Start a timer with two taps of the finger or track your time by just entering in your punch times manually. Track time while using other apps, add as many jobs are you like, assign a pay rate to calculate earnings, set up pay periods and view your time by weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly or monthly, export reports to email, etc.
  • Why I Love – Keep track of the hours you work on your clients websites, blogs and social media sites. Organize hours you edit photos or video footage to send to customers.  It is always hard to guess the amount of time you spend on certain projects, this app allows you to stop short changing yourself and start getting paid for all your hard work and creativity.

2.  Dragon Dictation

  • Price – FREE
  • DetailsDragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application that allows you to speak and instantly see your text or email messages. You can dictate status updates directly to your social networking apps or send notes and reminders to yourself.  Editing feature provides a list of suggested words, voice driven correction interface, paste text into any application using the clipboard, etc.
  • Why I Love – While on the road or out in the field this app allows you to get your ideas and thoughts on paper quickly.  I am always brainstorming blog topics, status updates, to-do lists and emails while driving or away from my computer.  This helps me keep track of all the random thoughts going through my head that I would otherwise forget.

3.  Instagram

  • Price – FREE
  • DetailsInstagram is a simple way to make and share photos.  Pick from one of several filtered effects to add creativity to your mobile photos.  Share photos in a simple photo stream for friends to see and follow friends’ photos.  Instantly share photos to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare, and Posterous, unlimited uploads, receive likes and comments.
  • Why I love – Smartphone cameras are state-of-the-art capturing pictures with as much resolution as a small hand held camera.  I always have my phone on me and use it to capture everyday memorable moments I want to share with others.  I use this app with Twitter the most.  It adds the picture in a short URL right to your tweet.  The effects allow you to share photos that look like they have had hours of editing.

4.  Keek

  • Price – FREE
  • DetailsKeek is an easy way to share video moments and status updates.  Send microvideo updates (“keeks”) using your smartphone. Share your keeks to Facebook and Twitter followers. Connect. Capture. Share.
  • Why I Love – Who knew it was as easy to share video as it was a simple photo. Instead of writing a status update to announce to customers of an upcoming event or sale…how about you record a short video clip.  Keek is a fun way to be different and show some creativity.

5.  TurboScan

  • Price – $1.99
  • DetailsTurboScan turns your smartphone into a multiple scanner for documents, receipts, whiteboards, business cards.  Scan, store, print or email them as multipage PDFs or JPEG files.  Auto edge detection, fast processing, document naming and storage, open in other apps like Dropbox or Evernote, compact attachments, etc.
  • Why I Love – Using this efficiency app allows you to organize your on-the-go business. Instead of losing those reimbursement receipts or forgetting where you put all the business cards you got at the last farm show…scan and export to email or other word processor.

Let’s Get Chatting

Twitter has become a household name and is nothing new to most.  I have tweeted for a while not, but had not truly jumped on the bandwagon until recently.  In the last couple of months I have really become excited about using Twitter to not simply keep up with my friends and favorite celebrities, but to be a voice for my passion…agriculture.  As I began to follow agriculture communication professionals, organizations and magazines I came across @agchatfound.  The Ag Chat Foundation has a mission to empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities social media platforms.  Through this mission they created @agchat, a weekly conversation for folks involved in the business of growing food, fuel, feed and fiber.  This chat is held every Tuesday night from 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. ET.   This vitual conversation allows people from all over the world to share ideas and viewpoints about issues facing the agriculture industry.  #AgChat is the largest online Twitter community dedicated to getting the conversation started.  More than 2,000 people from seven countries and four continents have taken advantage of this social media outlet.

Ag Chat Foundation also started a sister chat, known as #FoodChat.  This forum takes place every third Tuesday of each month, in lieu of #AgChat.  Topics are geared towards consumers, nutrition pros and foodies.  This is such a cool opportunity for people to actually “meet a farmer” and learn from each other.  Both chats utilize a moderator who posts using @agchat or @foodchat.  The moderator announces the chat topic, poses questions and may ask for clarification on specific posts.

If you are new to this form of chatting the folks at Ag Chat Foundation have listed a few tips to help make the process fun and easy:

  • Introduce yourself, your connection to ag, affiliation, etc., even if you come in late.
  • Always use the #agchat or #foodchat tag.
  • Stay on topic or ‘respect the chat’ as some like to say.
  • Watch for questions to be posed from @agchat or @foodchat (moderator will typically announce question is closing & next question is on the way).
  • Use the questions number (ie: Q1, Q2…) in advance of your response so that people trying to follow the conversation later can identify what you are responding to.

These tips can be applied to any chat you join.

Both chats are powered by www.tweetchat.com.  All you have to do is login to your Twitter account, choose a hashtag to follow you find interesting and begin conversing in real-time.  Chat forums are created on various topics.  Specific topics are chosen and questions created related to that topic.  Questions are posted and are answered during an allotted amount of time.  Followers are encouraged to answer and comment as much as they want.  Another forum host can be found at http://twubs.com.  Both outlets keep you tuned in to the quick moving conversation.

Show Day

Show days consist of early mornings, long hours and short fuses.  The opportunity to market your cattle and the possibility of bringing home a blue ribbon or maybe even a purple banner keeps most motivated, but the part I like the best is hanging out with close friends and making memories worth repeating.

Cattle are brought into the barn hours before they actually make it to the ring.  They are usually whisked to the wash rack, and then brought back to the stalls to be blown dry and have their hair worked.  Then they are watered, fed and given hay while they rest until brought into grooming chutes to be fit.  About 45 minutes to an hour before show time each animal is fitted using adhesive to build legs and tops.  Their hair is combed and oiled and then they are taken to the make-up area to wait there turn in the ring.  They show by age and once in the ring the judge places the animals in order based on his opinion on structural correctness, muscularity, femininity, body conformation and overall eye appeal.

Here is a glimpse of what happens on show day and all the excitement in the ring!

Behind the Scenes

As I am writing this I am sitting in a lawn chair with my feet propped up on a cooler.  I see cattle all around me in a variety of colors.  They have been freshly washed and blown dry until their hair is full of shine and fluff.  People are mingling with friends they only get to see a couple times a year.  Can you guess where I am?

A cattle show.  To be exact I am exhibiting Hereford and Charolais at the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo.  Located just minutes from downtown and a few miles from many subdivisions sits Kemper Arena, home to the American Royal.  People come from across the county to exhibit cattle, sheep goats and pigs…A hobby for many, but a marketing tool for most.

I would like to share with you a few video clips I have taken the last couple of days highlighting what goes on behind the scenes before show day.

5 Ways Women in Agriculture are Using Social Media

I am a woman, I love agriculture and I love social media.  So, I thought I would highlight some of the top ways women in agriculture use social media to promote ag advocacy and their passions in life.  I am not new to social media.  I remember when Facebook finally came to Missouri State University my sophomore year of college.  But until recently my use of social media was purely for connecting with friends and family.  These women have influenced me to become an advocate of agriculture using social media.  I hope you can learn from them as well.

1.  Cindy Zimmerman, Vice President and Co-Founder of ZimmComm

2.  Amanda Radke, author of Beef Daily Blog and editor of Beef Daily

3.  FARMnWIFE, Farm Blogger Helping Farmers Blog

4.  Wisconsin Women in Agriculture

  • For 30 years Wisconsin Women in Agriculture have worked hard to advocate for agriculture by telling their story, but they wanted to take it one step further and learn how to use today’s technology…social media.
  • Lisa Condon hosted a social media training day at her farm.  They brought in Danielle Hammer and Nancy Kavazanjian.  These women understand agriculture and social media.
  • Using the technology of webinars the women were able to learn how to use social media to tell their story.
  • Check them out on Facebook, Rock River Chapter of Wisconsin Women In Agriculture.

5.  The American Agri-Women Daily, published by American-Agri Women

These are just a few of the many women across the country who are excited about sharing what agriculture means to them through the great technology of social media.  How are you sharing your story?

Visit from the Vet

I am finishing up my Master’s in Ag Communications and am taking a Social Media in Public Relations class.  Hence the creation of this blog.  This week’s assignment required us to post photos to a photo-sharing site and then link them to our blog.  The day after the assignment the vet came to cosmetically dehorn a few of our show and sale heifers.  I thought what a perfect opportunity to share what we do on the farm and how safe and routine this process was.  Below you will find the step-by step procedures our vet took in cosmetically dehorn a heifer.

www.flickr.com

Social Media Deficient

Yesterday might have been one of the longest days I have had in awhile.  We run a 350+ head cattle operation and yesterday was the day to work all the fall calvers, which is about 200 cows, and about half have already calved.  Now if you aren’t familiar with what it means to “work” cattle, let me briefly explain.  Working the cows means getting them all up in a corral and running them all through a chute to give them medicine to prevent internal and external parasites, as well as other vaccines to keep them healthy.  Calves have to be sorted off from cows and the whole process is very long and tiring.  We started when the sun came up and finally finished about 5 in the evening covered in “you know what” and sore from head to toe.  So, what does this have to do with anything?

Well when I got up this morning I found my iPhone and laptop were both dead.  This virtually never happens because I am always using them.  Then I started to realize that I didn’t touch either of these yesterday.  Living out in the middle of nowhere, I rely on the Internet to keep me up-to-date on everything going on locally and around the world.  I can’t believe I spent an entire day with no Facebook, Twitter, Fox News app or blog reading.  I had no idea what my friends did yesterday or if the cattle markets changed any.  I have to admit I am addicted to social media.  I have TweetDeck downloaded on my computer and use the app version on my phone, so I am constantly getting updates.  I wonder if I could survive if I had to go longer than a day without social media.  Could you?

A couple of years ago I would be able to answer yes without any hesitation.  Facebook was just a fun way to stay connected, but today social media has turned into a form of marketing, advertising and promotion we can all use free and easily.  Yes, I still use Facebook to stay connected with friends, but I use all forms of social media to promote my business (beef cattle) and find out what is happening in the world of agriculture.  It’s obvious it didn’t kill me to be deficient in social media for a day, but it might take me a couple of days to catch up on lots of missed reading.

FFA Goes LIVE

As a former FFA advisor, I got really excited when I found out that the 84th Annual National FFA Convention would be streamed live due to Alltech Ag Network’s sponsorship.  The convention is held in Indianapolis, IN. Oct. 19-22.  FFAers from across the country will be traveling by plane, train and big yellow bus for a week of leadership training, fellowship and renowned motivational speakers.

So, why does LIVE STREAMING excite me so much?

  •   The FFA is utilizing social media to share the National FFA Convention experience to more members.  They already have a Facebook page, Twitter account and a new blog.  I have subscribed to all of these and am very impressed with how they use social media to help spread news about agriculture and the largest youth organization in the country.  The convention has been aired by RFD-TV for quite some time, but most classrooms aren’t equipped with satellite TV or at least I know mine wasn’t.  I had to have a parent record the convention for me on DVD so I could share it with students who didn’t get to attend.  Now with live streaming members not able to attend the convention will have the opportunity to watch everything LIVE and experience the fun and excitement as if they were actually there.   I used to teach at a school where we had over 200 FFA members.  Could we take all 200 from Southwest Missouri to Indianapolis (a 10 hour bus ride)?…No!  It was a very competitive process to choose which members would be able to attend.  Many only had the chance once.  We could only take 30 each year.
  • Budget cuts have also been a huge issue in schools.  The school board at the school where I more recently taught voted to only allow our chapter to attend the National FFA Convention every other year.  It was very saddening when students found out that they wouldn’t be able to attend.  But now with the use of live streaming advisors from across the country will be able to lighten the moods a little when they tell their students they can simply log onto the internet and watch it all LIVE.  I also encourage members who get to attend to Tweet their experience with pictures and updates keeping those at home informed.

According to AgWired, iHigh.com expects this to be their largest telecast ever and went on to quote Billy Frey, general manager of the Alltech Ag Network in their recent blog. “Agriculture is taking the lead in communications, moving high tech to engage the world in its story… FFA is now harnessing this power, broadening its reach at a time when our growing population is moving increasingly far away from the stories of the farm and the origins of their food.”

Cows, Sows, Plows and Social Media?

A recent ZimmPoll at AgWired, which is a great social media site that brings readers news from the world of agribusiness, asked, “Can farmers effectively reach out to consumers with social media?” I quickly voted, “Yes!”  I have had this strong opinion for years now.  What better tool to teach consumers that agriculture isn’t just about cows, sows and plows.

The results speak from themselves.  74% agreed that farmers could effectively utilize social media to seek consumers.  Check out the results for yourself and read some great comments from voters. 

So, what about the other 25% who voted no?  Why do they feel social media isn’t for the farmer?  I don’t have a specific answer, but I will say some might think most farmers either don’t have the technology or experience to fully utilize social media or are just too old.  According to the 2002 Censes of Agriculture, 50% of farmers are 55 years old or older.  Pingdom.com recently did a study on the average age of people using social networks.  The chart below shows the breakdown.

Is the older generation using social media?  Yes!  But, the majority of users are 25-54 years old.  Social media can bridge the gap between generations.

This response really got me thinking.  As agriculturalist we are continually fighting an uphill battle when it comes to educating consumers on where their food comes from and how it was raised or grown.  It seems in years past we have not got that job done.  Maybe we were just waiting for someone else to answer their questions or just didn’t have the means to get the word out.  But guess what…no more excuses!!  It’s all easy now with social media tools.  Any producer can market their business and products via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. at the drop of the hat.  If my 80 year-old Facebook using grandpa can do it, then so can farmers from across the country.