The people part of the social media puzzle

After a trip to Paris in 2000, I told my parents, “One day, I will live in France.” True to my word, I moved to the city of love in 2007 for eight months and then moved on to the Netherlands, where I worked until the summer of 2009. Sitting in an office in Amsterdam, though, I realized how much I missed my farm and my family. Agriculture called me home.

When I returned to college, the spark of passion I had for the agricultural industry grew into a burning flame. I started taking every opportunity presented to be involved. Through my university, I became involved with the Agricultural Business and Marketing Society where I encouraged the group to participate in the first College Aggies Online social networking competition. Through this opportunity I learned more about social media, although I never took the time to understand how we in agriculture could use it to educate consumers.

It was through my use of Twitter and Facebook that I stumbled upon #AgChat, which allowed me to reach beyond my local and state agricultural community. Through the chat, I am not only part of a bigger picture but, by listening twice as much as I speak, I have become further educated on the diversity of the industry.

In June 2010, I attended a social media training session with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association led by Michele Payn-Knoper. During that session, I was inspired by Michele’s desire to feed a hungry world and her leadership with #agchat and the AgChat Foundation. My wheels began to turn immediately. Being an “agvocate” was about using my passion and voice for agriculture, while embracing social media to connect consumers with the industry that I had known since birth. When I learned about the first annual AgChat Foundation conference, it took me less than a second to decide whether or not I was going to apply.

After being put on the waiting list to start with, I remained hopeful and eventually received the email that I’d been accepted to the conference. When I arrived in Chicago, it was strange at first to meet the people I’d only known by their Twitter handle or through an association on Facebook. Once we all sat down, though, it was like we had all been friends for as long as we’d been engaging in conversations in 140 characters or less. Now, we could step out from behind our computers and look up from our smart phones to have a face-to-face conversation.

The information and knowledge I gained at the AgChat Foundation Conference about advancing my social media skills has empowered me to continue my agvocacy. Over the last year, I have successfully executed a number of my own social media training sessions entitled, “Tips for turning what’s on your mind into what matters” in which I focus on the different ways young people can use Facebook to be agvocates themselves. One of the most important parts about my presentation that I choose to focus on is making sure that my audience does not forget that the human connection remains the crucial piece of the puzzle. I started my own branding efforts with the launch of my website TheCornHeiress.com and a new blog called Corn Heiress Confessions. Hopefully there will be much more to come.

Since starting my social media journey, I have not only been inspired by ways we can connect online in order to promote our industry and spread our message, but also I have been inspired by how we as people can connect on so many levels for the love of agriculture. I would encourage you to apply to this year’s Agvocacy 2.0 Social Media Training Conferenceyou never know how you could inspire or make a connection with someone else.

Danielle Hammer grew up as the fifth generation on the Hammer & Kavazanjian grain farm in Beaver Dam, Wis. where her parents currently farm 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and winter wheat. As a 4-H member she raised market lambs and hogs for the county fair. After nearly two years in Europe, split between France and the Netherlands, Danielle’s agricultural roots called her back home where she returned to college at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls to major in Agricultural Business and minor in International Studies. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.