You never know where your story might take you

I love technology and anything electronic, especially if it has a screen. Connect it to the Internet and we are nearing utopia.

I also love people. What really fascinates me is how we can relate to one another with our similarities, and yet, we can discover that we can relate to one another amongst our differences. Combine the world through the Internet and who knows what we can discover?

[Read more...]

Join the Food Dialogues (#FoodD) On September 22 Online

Food is a basic need but it is also much more to many. Our families celebrate the happiest of occasions with food at the centerpiece. Farmers cultivate the land to produce food for their families and communities. The US Farmer & Rancher Alliance is hosting a series of town halls on Thursday, September 22 in four locations across the US. In keeping with our mission to empower more farmers to others interested in food through social media, the AgChat Foundation is partnering to encourage social media involvement in the Food Dialogues.

The town hall meetings will enable many farmers, foodies, and others interested in participating in the conversation about food to have these conversations face-to-face in these four locations. Live feed through the web will allow many more to participate from their homes, schools, businesses and farms.

We hope you will join us for the discussion. There are several ways to be involved including:

We hope you join many of the people in the AgChat Community in the dialogue as well as encouraging others both on the farm and who we join at the table in this discussion about one of the most basic human connections…. food.

AgChat and USFRA working together

A strategic partnership between The AgChat Foundation (ACF) and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) brings together two organizations passionate about keeping today’s American agriculture successful. Through coordinated efforts, the groups will work together to support farmers and ranchers who are sharing their stories about how food is raised.

The AgChat Foundation is one of the first outside organizations to partner with USFRA, a coalition that represents more than 50 of the top farmer- and rancher-led organizations and industry partners from across the country. It wasn’t hard for leaders from USFRA and ACF to realize that their missions connected.

“The core vision of the AgChat Foundation is to empower farmers and ranchers to share their stories,” said Darin Grimm, Kansas farmer and AgChat Foundation president. “We are excited to partner with USFRA to build and expand those conversations.”

The partnership is multi-faceted. USFRA recently sponsored the AgChat Foundation’s Agvocacy 2.0 Conference, which sought to teach farmers and ranchers about using social media platforms and other technology to share their stories with food consumers. USFRA has also committed to an additional sponsorship, which will further the ACF’s ability to have an impact on more farmers and ranchers from across the country.

Playing to their strengths, the AgChat Foundation will be a key partner in USFRA’s Food Dialogues event on September 22. The event, a simultaneous grouping of four live meetings around the country as well as online participation, will feature a series of different panels discussing different topics in key locations.

The goal of Food Dialogues is to answer the questions that Americans are asking about their food. The AgChat Foundation will help engage the online agricultural community through a strategic social media campaign in order to build excitement in the weeks leading up to and during the event. To learn more about Food Dialogues, visit www.fooddialogues.com.

“Partnering with USFRA and their Food Dialogues project is an exciting opportunity to engage farmers and ranchers in the ongoing and active food discussion,” Grimm said.

The two groups look forward to continuing their partnership after the Food Dialogues event. Coordinated efforts will encourage continued message-sharing on the part of farmers and ranchers, and increased understanding and support for today’s agriculture among all Americans.

About the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), established in 2010 and headquartered in Chesterfield, Mo., represents more than 50 of the top farmer- and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners. The alliance includes prominent agricultural groups at the national, regional and state levels that have collaborated to lead the dialogue about their commitment to continuous improvement and best production practices. For more information on the alliance, affiliates and partners, and the movement to lead the conversation with Americans about today’s agriculture, visit www.USFRAonline.org, or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

About the AgChat Foundation

A small group of farmers created the AgChat Foundation in April 2010 as a nonprofit devoted to empowering farmers to tell their stories to the 98 percent of Americans who are not involved in farms. The organization strives to educate and equip agvocates with the skill set needed to engage on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs and other social media services, giving them the knowledge to unlock new tools to effectively tell their story. You can learn more about the Foundation by visiting www.agchat.org, or find them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

For more information or to arrange an interview, media can contact the AgChat Foundation via email at media@agchat.org, or spokesman John Blue at (317) 450-1958.

Stop standing still, for agriculture’s sake

I am not unique. There’s nothing special about me. I am not a well-versed, professionally trained speaker. I am not a speaker at all. Social media guru? Nope. Sly talkin’ slick dressed public relations specialist? Uh-uh. Not even close. I’m a mom, a daughter, an entrepreneur, and a cattle farmer from rural Kentucky. I make my living slinging meat in our family’s slaughterhouse. Talk about worlds apart! I live simply. I walk across my hayfield to work every day. I’m devoted to my family, my farm, and my business. Sometimes I fail. Occasionally I succeed. I am not extraordinary or unique by any stretch of the imagination. So, fancy my surprise when I was asked by the AgChat Foundation to be a speaker at the Agvocacy 2.0 Social Media Conference recently held in Nashville, TN. My topic would be on conversations beyond the choir. Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback by this and extremely honored. Lil ‘ol me? Surely you are mistaken. How nice of you to ask.

Wait! You want me to do what?

Sure, I like to chat. I love people. I find them interesting. But chatting among small groups and being center stage are two totally different things altogether. There is a wide range of emotions involved in something of this nature for me. First, I’m flattered. How nice of them to think of me. Personally, I have great respect for the other faces behind the AgChat Foundation. It was a huge compliment just to be asked. Next the reality of the situation sets in.

You see, on my own turf, I am comfy. Secure in my familiar surroundings. It is my happy place. I am self-assured and comfortable in my own skin. I am the ruler of my own universe and this is my kingdom. Now these AgChat folks want to rip me from my happy place and throw me into the lion’s den. Have they gone mad? Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit. Maybe. Take that same confidant, assertive me and put me front and center of a room full of strangers with all eyes on me expecting me to say something brilliant and there is only one way to describe it: sheer, unadulterated fear! I begin to have this self-deprecating internal debate with my crazy self. (Oh, don’t you act surprised. You have a crazy self too. C’mon. Let’s be honest here.)

A range of things race through my boisterous mind. It goes something like this:

Crazy Self: What are you thinking? You’re not smart enough.

Feisty Self: Excuse me? No you didn’t. Shut up.

Crazy Self: Well, your rural drawl isn’t proper. People won’t take you seriously.

Feisty Self: Hey! I talk just fine, thank you very much. I am what I am. You should be so lucky to be me.

Crazy Self: You’re certainly not special or dazzling or extraordinary. Who wants to hear you speak anyway? Snore!

Feisty Self: Now you wait just one minute self. I don’t think you realize who you’re talking to! That sounds like a challenge to me. Crawl back to your cold dark lonely corner of the universe where nothing ever changes. Where the world is cozy and you’re always right. Good luck with that. I, however, have a dragon to slay.

I’m driven by a good challenge. That’s something I just can’t pass up. I’m addicted to it. I live for it. Game on! Ok. So it’s really not that simple. As a youngster, I took an F in any and every class that required public speaking. I’m not kidding when I say it really freaks me out.

Amy spoke on the "Beyond the Choir...Ag Conversations" panel at this year's Agvocacy 2.0 Social Media Conference.

Long story short, I talked myself into it and glad I did. Tackling challenges builds confidence and grows character. It was a great experience to be among so many talented people. Even if you stumble, just finishing is a personal reward all on its own. As frightening as it was, I was doing the very thing I was asking that crowd of people to do. Step outside your comfort zone where the world is a little scary and unpleasant at times. If you only surround yourself with peers ready and willing to pat you on the back, you don’t grow or learn. You stand still. Agriculture can’t afford to stand still.

Inside our happy place life is simple. It is safe. Nothing ever changes there. Outside, a conversation is happening. Are you a part of it? Don’t let your crazy self hold you back. There’s a great big scary world out there that wants to know what makes you tick. Will you venture outside your happy place? Or will you retreat to your corner of the universe where nothing ever changes, the world is cozy, and you’re always right? You might just find your own sweet reward. You might grow, learn, and stop standing still. At the end of the day, you always have that happy place to retreat to.

Amy is mom of three and a small cattle farmer in Kentucky. Her family owns and operates John’s Custom Meats, an on-farm USDA inspected slaughterhouse, processing facility, and retail meat market. Among a laundry list of other duties, Amy navigates the FSIS regulatory world, serves as the in-plant food safety and HACCP coordinator and consults with livestock farmers on ways of adding value to their livestock. You will also find her hands-on in the processing room daily. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook .