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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.

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?

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.

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.