AgChat Convo on March 1 Focuses on Planning a Successful Growing Season in Social Media!

With soaring commodity prices and spring just around the bend, planting decisions are officially on the front burner. Profits are at stake as crop farmers decide which crop(s) they will “gamble” on this year. A growing group of farmers and ranchers representing a broad swath of agriculture recognize there’s one type of seed they can’t afford not to plant this year: Seeds of Agvocacy.

As graduates of AgChat Foundation’s first Agvocacy 2.0 Training learned last August in Chicago, such seeds – including blogs, Facebook postings, YouTube videos and tweets – help farmers and ranchers tell their farm stories and grow communities that are more connected to agriculture.

First AgChat conference held in Chicago

Six months following the training, the “Class of 2.0” will reunite. And the conversation holds the possibility to include the broader #agchat community with the Twitter conversation focused on planning social media seeds to plant for a successful 2011 growing season.

There will be a couple of activities for the Agvocacy 2.0 graduates that we will share in the form of “event coverage” on this blog, including a listing of special conference awards, such as “most popular” and “ruler of the twitterverse.”  It should be a fun way to celebrate the accomplishments of others in our communities but of course, all of us are winners for getting our farm stories out!

Note to ACFC10 Graduates: you are encouraged to blog, tweet and post about your Agvocacy 2.0 experiences and spread the Reunion news! You can also post links to any posts on the topic here to share them easily with others.

Farmer Stereotypes — True or False?

Growing up I have noticed that there are several stereotypes about farms and the farmers that live on them.  Some of these stereotypes revolve around the idealistic view of a farm, others are formed by interactions that people have had with farmers. The problem with stereotypes is that they lump an entire group of individuals together. There are a lot of farmers in the United States, in fact according to the USDA there are over 2.2 million of us!  While we share a love of the land, crops and livestock, we are also a very diverse group of people. I’d bet you could compare every farm in the US and find several things that are unique on each farm that sets them apart from the rest.

I wanted to talk about one stereotype in particular. For some reason, farmers have a bit of a reputation for being hard-headed and stubborn.   In all my years and all the farmers that I have met, I have come to the realization that this stereotype in particular is for the most part accurate.  I myself find myself unwilling to change something just because a salesman or agronomist tells me their way is superior.  After all if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right?  On that note, if something is broke, I will use my ingenuity to figure a way to fix it. Being stubborn and hard-headed frequently helps us get through really tough situations. Looking around me here in Ohio and the farmers I’ve met across the Midwest and in fact the U.S., I have to say I’m not exactly an outlier. [Read more…]

Less Salt, More Fruit, Veggies: New Dietary Guidelines From USDA and HHS

By: Elizabeth Rahavi, RD

(Join us to discuss the guidelines with special guest @FoodInsight: #FoodChat, Tuesday evening on Twitter from 8-10 EST.)

On Monday the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Policy Report. These new federal guidelines, which are updated every five years, set the standard for federal nutrition policy in the U.S. and provide science-based guidance for health professionals who work with Americans every day in their quest to lose weight and improve their health through diet and exercise. This is no easy task, as the report points out poor diets and physical inactivity are associated with the major causes of death and chronic disease, placing a tremendous impact on the cost of health care in the U.S.

Unfortunately, this release came at a time when most Americans’ attention is focused on the Middle East. While we did see coverage of the new guidelines in major media outlets like the Washington PostLA Times, New York Times, and various nightly newscasts, it was largely eclipsed by other events around the world. This represents a missed opportunity to have national dialogue using the latest evidenced-based science about what it means to have an active, healthy lifestyle.

What has changed from 2005 to 2010?

The science-based recommendations have not changed drastically from the previous iteration of the policy report. Americans are still being encouraged to consume more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, be mindful of protein choices (opting for lean whenever possible), increase consumption of seafood, use oils in lieu of solid fats all while reducing consumption of foods and beverages that are high in saturated and trans fat, sugar and sodium.

The dietary guidelines have traditionally been recommended for healthy people ages two and older. However, with more than two-thirds of the population struggling with overweight and obesity, the new guidelines place a larger emphasis on managing calories to help manage weight. Two themes sum up the emphasis of the report:

  1. Maintain calorie balance over time to achieve and sustain a healthy weight.
  2. Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages.

Relaying the Message Using Consumer Terms

According to the New York Times article, Robert C. Post, deputy director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion at the Agriculture Department, said regulators hoped simple messages [contained in the report] would resonate better than the more technical prose of the past. Ideally, the guidelines are to be used by health professionals and others who can translate the technical prose into consumer-friendly terms, but the new report recognizes the need for simple messages. Accordingly, one of the consumer messages from the new report is to, “Enjoy your food, but eat less.”

This new consumer-friendly language is a move in the right direction, but health professionals should not be concerned that they’ll be out of a job anytime soon. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that Americans learn how to make these simple recommendations a reality and to translate some of the more technical advice into consumer-friendly language. If there is one thing I’ve learned from conducting consumer research over the years, it is that even the simplest nutrition advice can fall short when it comes to the stress of day-to-day life. So communication is key, but helping consumers understand how to overcome obstacles and tap into the reasons why they eat what they eat is just as important.

Over the next few months we’ll be blogging more about the new dietary guidelines and developing resources that help put the new recommendations into perspective based on our wealth of consumer insights. To stay update to date with our insights, subscribe to the FoodInsight blog and sign up to get monthly updates that give you the 411 on new materials on

Do you feel that the new guidelines are drastically different from the previous iteration? What was your key takeaway?

#NeATA11 to Demo Twitter for Fellow Techies – Can you help?

On Wednesday, I head up to the 2011 NeATA conference (this conference is one friends say is filled with #agnerds).  What is NeATA?  NeATA is a innovative group of Nebraska producers who share a common desire to stay abreast of emerging agriculture technologies.  I attended my first NeATA conference over 10 years go.

They always have great keynote topics covering a wide range of ag technologies, everything from using GPS data for improving field operation efficiency, to integrated weather/equipment systems being used on high-value crops to prevent freezes (can’t wait for that to filter down from Washington apples to corn) as well as the latest in robotics technology. [Read more…]