Getting to Know Ray Prock, AgChat Foundation Secretary

Welcome to the AgChat Foundation’s website! I am glad you are here and I hope you find our mission to empower a connected community of agvocates of interest. My name is Ray Prock Jr., I am a second generation progressive dairy farmer from Central California. My family has been on the dairy farm since 1972 when my parents spent their savings to buy a few cows. We currently milk approximately 500 cows in a modern dairy facility. In addition to the cows we have 130 acres of cropland that we grow 2-3 silage crops (corn, oats, and sudan) each year. The dairy also has pasture for grazing. In 2005 our family farm purchased 1,200 acres in Klamath Falls, Oregon where we grow alfalfa and oat hay to feed cows on the dairy.

Ray and his son checking on one of the cows

From as early as I can remember, all I ever wanted to do when I grew up was to be a dairy farmer. The love and interest in caring for the animals and land was instilled in me at an early age. I have spent many a late night or early morning caring for those cows to keep them healthy or out of harm’s way.  Like other farmers, I put my heart and soul into the comfort of our animals. One example I’m reminded of when shortly after my son was born, I needed to leave the hospital in the middle of the night to make sure everything was in order with the cows and dairy. I made it back to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning.

With the immense effort placed on keeping the cows healthy and comfortable I am horrified at how Agriculture has come to be portrayed at times and felt helpless to accept that others stories were more newsworthy than doing the right thing. I spent a lot of time and energy getting myself prepared for the opportunity to respond when the opportunity would present itself. Many meetings and conferences later I well versed in media responses. Something was still burning inside of me to tell my story as the media only came calling when there was a story they could sell. Well, lo and behold, along comes this little thing called social media and after a quick webinar by a dairy promotion group I was ready to tell my story.

Nearly a year later I am still as excited about social media and the various forms whether blogs, Twitter, YouTube or Facebook because I can now tell MY story the way I want to tell it. Through my time involved in social media I have become acquainted with many people who are some of my closest friends. Some are farmers, some are professionals in all walks of life yet they all have one thing in common and that is they are all around awesome people. Through the conversations that I had with these friends we all started building on each other’s passion to tell our stories and became inspired to help others do the same. The result is the AgChat Foundation.

I will leave you with the goal of the foundation as it sums everything up nicely:

The goal of the AgChat Foundation is simple: help farmers and ranchers use social media to tell their stories to the 98.5 percent of the population not engaged in the production of food, feed, fuel and fiber.

The foundation is still in its infancy and it has been an awesome ride getting to this point so why don’t you jump on board with us and together we can tell our stories the way we want them told.

Ray Prock, Jr. - California, Farmer, Secretary

Twitter * Blog * Facebook * LinkedIn * YouTube * Other

Ray is a second generation dairy farmer in Central CA working to secure a future for the third and future generations to one day help feed the world as farmers. Ray sees social media as a great way to connect with others and to have conversations about what, why and how farmers feed, clothe and fuel today’s ever growing population. “The AgChat Foundation is a way to focus social media efforts across all segments of Agriculture in one coordinated effort whether farmers or ranchers, veterinarians or Extension agents, salespeople or bankers.”

Tonight’s AgChat: Organizations Driving Our Industry

Be sure to join us online tonight for a fast-paced chat focused on ag organizations…those people who help bring our industry together. Given the topic, it only made sense to have a number of organizations submit questions. Since your comments and interaction will help shape the discussion, these questions may or may not be asked in this order. We’ll go with the convo flow as interest focuses dialogue and time permits.  Please note that we decided to leave all questions in Twitterspeak.

See you at 7 CDT!
  • via @sollmana What are some positive examples you’ve seen of ag organizations working together to help diff groups (ex: Farm Bureau &
    4-H)?
  • via @SlowMoneyFarm what do ag orgs offer those not in ag & why people should join? (thinking even rabbit owners not joining because” we dont show/breed)
  • via @ThomsonVnyrds AgChat How are current Ag orgs restructuring to meet needs of next generation of farmers & ranchers?
  • via @ThomsonVnyrds AgChat How many Ag orgs are too many Ag orgs for 1 sm town or Ag industry? What can be done to retain membership & enhance value?
  • via @ThomsonVnyrds AgChat What are creative ways Ag orgs are minimizing costs to members? i.e. yearly membership fees, but free ongoing ed seminars?
  • via @mpaynknoper What are some specific ways ag orgs can collaborate to more proactively share messages around food, fuel, feed & fiber?
  • via @ThomsonVnyrds AgChat What are smart Ag orgs doing to put growers & farmers & ranchers infront of buyers & decisions makers in struggling economy?
  • via @TruffleMedia What are the ag ed web sites people should know of? Why?
  • via @weedgirl24 How do you peak the interest of recent college graduates (and keep them involved)?

Looking Forward & Giving Thanks

I can barely describe how excited I was when, last Friday, I received an e-mail notifying me that I had been accepted to the first-ever AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 Conference.  Me! Just a little ol’ college student trying to become an agriscience teacher who loves to tweet with ag folks in her spare time. But alas, here I am and I couldn’t be more pumped about getting to head to Chicago for this awesome experience!

The AgChat Agvocacy conference will be, as I shared with a friend, a lot of information in a little time. In just one day—noon to noon—people involved in the agricultural industry from all across the country will meet in Chicago to network and learn about how we can become better advocates for agriculture (ag-vocate…get it?!) through utilizing social media sites, like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. We’ve already seen what a difference social media can make for agriculture through the efforts of individual farmers and ranchers on topics impacting their farms and the weekly #agchat and #foodchat conversations. This conference will be an amazing chance for 50 farmers and ag industry professionals to learn how they can make a difference and connect with consumers, too.

Besides learning the skillset, I am also excited for some other factors that come along with the conference. First, I am really looking forward to meeting all of the great people who will be attending. For almost a year now, I’ve known them as a personality behind a Twitter handle. Whether they’re a college student in Illinois or someone who loves Southern agriculture, the most I know of their face is a tiny little picture and who knows what they sound like! I can’t wait to get to see them face-to-face, have a live conversation, and learn about the people behind the tweets. I know how amazing they are already, so I’m sure I won’t be disappointed!

Another thing that I’m looking forward to is seeing how everyone presents the material in our workshops. As a future teacher and current student, I have a huge interest in utilizing social media in my classroom and presenting workshops for my colleagues on how they can use it to enhance student learning and connect youth with others in the industry. Participating in the AgChat Conference will be a great way for me to watch and learn, so I can pay it forward.

Thankfully, I will be able to attend the AgChat Conference with the sponsorship of some great organizations. I would again like to express my gratitude to the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and GreenStone Farm Credit Services for their never-ending support of me and, really, all youth looking to pursue a future in agriculture.

If you are an individual, organization or business who would like to financially support other agriculturalists that have been accepted to the conference—GREAT!! There are several accepted participants that are looking for the generous support of people like you. Feel free to visit some of their blogs here and here to find out more about them and their journey to Chicago. It’s an honor to be chosen for the conference and we hope that no one will have to turn down that opportunity because of cost. To inquire about any other farmers or ways to support the AgChat Foundation, please feel free to contact them at info@agchat.org.

Finally, I know the volunteers of the AgChat Foundation have put in a lot of time and effort to make this conference possible. Thank you for your dedication and I can wait to meet you in August!!

Amanda Sollman is a senior at Michigan State University, majoring in Agriscience Education with a concentration in Communication and a minor in Biology. She is a past 4-H and FFA member and has held internships with Michigan State University Extension, the National Swine Registry, and the National Association of Agricultural Educators. After graduation, Amanda plans to pursue a career teaching high school agriscience. She blogs and connects with people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!

#FoodChat – Talking Food and Health with IFIC 7-20-2010

The following blog post was submitted by the team at the International Food Information Council Foundation as a way to provide additional information as we prepare for tomorrow night’s (July 20, 2010) #FoodChat convo on Twitter. We are taking questions from the community via direct message to @FoodChat to help guide the conversation (those not on Twitter can post questions in the comments section here, please limit the question to 100 characters due to the way the Twitter platform works). A frequently-asked questions & answers document is available for those joining us for the first time.

We strive to understand what Americans know about nutrition and food safety so that we can communicate with them more effectively, helping people understand their food and the science behind it. We listen to Americans by conducting focus groups and fielding surveys  Five years ago, we started our signature Food & Health survey which asks people how they perceive the food they eat, how much they know about food and food components and how food and exercise fits into their daily lifestyle.

2010 Food & Health Survey Takeaways

This year, our key survey takeaways have to do with the strategies people use when it comes to managing their weight.  We found that 70 percent of people are concerned about their weight and 77 percent are trying to lose or maintain their weight.  The majority of those trying to lose or maintain their weight are changing the amount of food or type of food they eat.  Still, while Americans express concern about their weight and report taking some action, the concept of calories consumed and burned still leaves most scratching their heads:

  • Only 19 percent report keeping track of calories, which can be a tool for those trying to manage weight.
  • Only 12 percent of respondents accurately estimate their recommended daily calorie intake for weight maintenance.
  • 43 percent don’t know how many calories they burn in a day.
  • 58 percent of people don’t make an effort to balance the amount of calories they eat with the amount they burn.
  • Only 19 percent of those watching their weight keep track of calories.

These are just a few of the major findings in this year’s survey.  It also covers several other key areas including:

  • Understanding of food components
  • Food Safety
  • Food purchasing influences
  • Perceptions of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans & MyPyramid
  • Sources of Food & Health information

All of this data put together helps us as we try to fulfill our mission of communicating science based information on health, nutrition and food safety for the public good.  We look forward to joining in #foodchat on Tuesday and hope you follow us @FoodInsight and @IFICMedia as well.

For more on the survey as well as who we are and what we do, visit www.foodinsight.org.

The Inaugural ACF Training Conference

When we announced we would hold the first AgChat Foundation training conference, it was with baited breath. Even as the Foundation was conceptualized, discussions turned to training and practice sharing as a key way to achieve our mission of “Empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms.”

Selecting a program, the location and finally rolling it out publicly with the goal of doing some interactive small groups, larger group interaction, etc. Knowing we could take 50 applicants, we wondered whether we would come close or what would happen if we exceeded that number.

We never expected to have 80 applicants that were so well qualified!

Our training committee had a tough job but designed a way to blindly review applicants placing the heaviest points with farmers, realizing that would mean other great social media advocates looking to improve will be asked to wait as we certainly intend to do more of these in the future.

Today, everyone who applied, received an email. We hope that all of the farmers (both full- and part-time) who applied are reading those materials and making their plans to join us in Chicago August 30 & 31. There are a few educators and others with direct farm relationships who will get an acceptance letter too. We regret though that many of our dear friends will be wait-listed or notified that we hope to see them at a future conference.

We look forward to meeting these 50 in the near future but know the real strength for agriculture in social media is our telling thousands of individual stories whether they be from the farm directly or other connections. We seek to create a forum here on our website and in the programs we continue to develop for August and well into the future.

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Special thanks to the members of the AgChat Foundation training committee for all the work they are putting into the conference: Drew Bender, Tricia Braid Terry, Jeff Fowle, Eliz Greene, Kathy McComb Swift, Michele Payn-Knoper, Chris Raines, Mace Thornton and Dan Toland.