Swing batter, batter!

It’s no secret that farmers and others in agriculture are some of the biggest, most dedicated sports fans around. Whether it’s football, baseball or basketball, we like rooting for our teams whenever the opportunity presents itself!

It’s also no secret that farmers love sharing their own farm stories and showing how they’re doing their part to provide safe, wholesome food for all of us. Recently, Missouri hog farmer Chris Chinn had the opportunity to tell her story and draw on her family’s love of baseball at the same time. Read her story, in her own words.

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World Food Day & Blog Action Day Through the Farm Lens

Today (Sunday, October 16) is observed for a couple of reasons that both impact the farmers who are empowering themselves with social media. If you didn’t know, today is both World Food day and Blog Action Day on food. Rather than try to tell a single story, we’ve asked some of the people who talk about food and farming on their blogs to share some of their favorite posts with us. We hope others will add their blogs to the post too highlighting several perspectives.

  • Volunteering to Help the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Feeding America (jplovescotton.com) — We frequently hear of someone gathering food for those in need. and most Americans have probably participated in a food drive at a local school, church or business by bringing canned goods and or dry foods like rice. Is there a way to make sure fresh fruits & vegetables are part of the effort? Do you know how agriculture works with food banks? Get answers to those questions and a tour of the Feeding America efforts in Southwest Florida.
  • Making It Personal (wagfarms.com) — “Going local” is one of the newest buzz words for consumers. Yet, in many areas, the chance of actually getting local food is very low. What is the definition of local food? Within county? Within state? Within country? This post takes a look at various counties in North Dakota (a largely agriculture state, without an enormous population base) and discovers what local would need to mean in order to feed its population.
  • Organic vs. Conventional Dairy (TheWifeOfADairyman.blogspot.com) As one of the few dairies remaining in the county in which we live, here in northern California, meeting new people in town almost always sparks conversation about our family farm.  The conversation seems to often gravitate towards the topic of organic and conventional milk and the differences between the two.  This has inspired me to write a blog post explaining the differences which I hope you will find both  interesting and informative.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Planting Decisions (daringrimm.wordpress.com)  As a grain farmer, I walk step-by-step through the decision making process of what I consider when I decide what crops to plant, that ultimately become the food on a grocery store shelf.
  • Is it ok that I don’t buy organic food? (www.beyerbeware.net) We aren’t organic farmers. I feel that our non-organic practices are producing safe products for animal and human consumption. The pork in my freezer comes from my neighbor who has a pig farm that most would consider a factory farm. And it tastes good! Plus my kids helped butcher the pig. How do you get anymore intimate with your food? But, yet other moms who are not engaged in agriculture in a way besides eating make me feel guilty for not paying the extra money for organic food.
  • Video Blog: Let’s talk about food on Blog Action Day (www.causematters.com/blog) Food is fundamental. It should not elicit feelings of guilt or elitism. Food is sustenance. So why waste Food Day or Blog Action Day posturing about our opinions on organic or conventional, small or large, animal or grain? I put together a quick video with some thoughts on food insecurity, farm values and faces behind our food.
  • This Is So Country (www.agricultureproud.com) Most of my life and work has taken place on the beginning end of beef production – raising cattle that will one day end as beef on my plate. During calving season earlier this year I helped save a young calf with its mother got sick. Taking care of these calves and making sure they have a healthy start to life is just another day in my life on the ranch.
  • Organic Propaganda (oregongreen.wordpress.com) In today’s society consumers are bombarded with Organic Propaganda. The Organic Food Movement, who doesn’t really care what your family eats, has done a great job of marketing organic food, mostly with scare tactics. It often times aligns itself with campaigns that create the illusion that it is healthier or safer for you, which is simply false.
  • Veterinarians and food safety (cowartandmore.blogspot.com)  While I normally blog about art, I wanted to join in the conversation about food, especially since we all eat.  In my role as a large animal veterinarian, food safety is a part of my focus in working with farms.  What does a large animal veterinarian do to help keep your food safe?

Dust off those cameras!

Quick question for the crowd: how many of you like to take photos? I can easily answer that question. Photography has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and, as the photographer for Iowa Farm Bureau for the past 10 years, I’ve photographed farmers in fields, barns, farmsteads and along the dusty roads that make up rural Iowa.

If there is one thing that I learned over those years it is that farmers and agriculture professionals are some of the best people to photograph. The hard work ethic, richness of life and exuberance of families always shines through, regardless of the story. Here are some of my favorite photos from my travels.

I’m not the only one who has learned that secret. Paul Mobley, an award-winning photographer, traveled across our great country photographing farmers for a successful book called “American Farmer: Portraits of the Heartland.” I had the pleasure of working with him, identifying several farmers in Iowa who were included in his book. Now, he is offering the opportunity for farmers like yourselves and others to submit photos to a contest that celebrates your way of life.

The contest is called “Your American Farmer Photo Contest.” Mobley would like you to share your experiences with the country’s beautiful agriculture, farm, farmers’ market and garden world. Capturing your favorite fall harvest scene, summer fruit stand, farmer’s market or road-side stand, share your view of this country’s beautiful landscape, agriculture and harvest. The contest is open to both amateur and professional photographers from across the country.

So, my next question is just as straightforward as the first. Who do you think are the best people to tell your story? Obviously, with the success of and participation in #AgChat and other social media platforms, the answer is you. That’s right. Don’t look over your shoulder while you read this. I’m talking to you. It’s time for you to dust off your camera, dig through your photos and find an entry for this unique photo contest. You can share an intimate look at your life as a farming professional. I know you had to capture at least one early morning photo with the sun cresting the horizon while you did your chores. Or maybe there was the photo during harvest when the family met you in the field for a quick dinner. Any photo that is special to you has already won an award with your family, so now it is time to share it with the world and tell your story through pictures.

I am honored to be one of the judges for this photo contest and I look forward to seeing all the excellent entries that celebrate the fabric of America that is agriculture. So, with that, find your best photo or grab your camera and take your best photo today. Then submit your photo to this great contest. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know either through Twitter, my Google+ profile or by email at jmurphix@gmail.com.

Can’t wait to see your photos!

Joe Murphy serves as a photographer and writer with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. In this position, he is responsible for the photography assignments of the weekly Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman, the monthly Family Living, marketing photos as well as the website iowafarmbureau.com. He also writes news and feature stories, provides creative input, and publication pagination. Additionally, his work has been featured in  National Geographic Television, Time, New York Times, Atlanta Journal Constitution, United Press International, Associated Press, Liaison and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

No smartphone? No problem.

“Your dumb-phone is not welcome here!” I have heard these words and felt left out when it comes to connectivity with mobile technology. As a response, I say my “dumb-phone” keeps me just as connected and more focused while on the go. True, my phone may not access the internet from the tractor seat, but thanks to smart use of text messaging, I can tweet from horseback, access market updates, send and receive Facebook notifications, and keep up with every score of my favorite sports teams. With a little planning, I can keep up with the smartphone users and invest much less money in mobile technology.

The first step in connecting with your dumb-phone is to invest in an unlimited text-messaging plan. Most phone providers offer unlimited plans starting at $10 per month. The next step is to jump online and adjust the mobile settings for your social media, marketing, and other web accounts. Connect your accounts to improve your access (blog posts to your Twitter feed, or Twitter feed updates to your Facebook status). I am no pro at mobile technology, but the following are a sample of the mobile applications I use to stay connected via text message.

Twitter – Probably the easiest social media site to connect with via text messaging. I can do just about everything on Twitter with a text: tweet your followers, send direct messages, follow specific users and retweet someone’s latest post. The downside: it is a bit difficult to add links or photos to your tweets and follow hashtags via text message, but that can saved for scheduling tweets on your home computer through applications like Hootsuite or photo blogs like Tumblr.

Facebook – This is probably my second most frequent use of social media via text message. I can update my status, subscribe to a friend’s updates, upload photos from my phone, poke friends, post on someone’s wall, or even send private messages. Several other applications have mobile settings, but these are the most frequently used. Once again, it is difficult to add links or stalk people via text message, but that can save us from the Facebook addiction.

Tumblr – As I mentioned above, photo blogging is an easy way to add photos to your Twitter feed. Tumblr is a popular micro-blogging site that offers easy photo uploads via text message. I text a photo to my account, and because Tumblr offers linked accounts to Twitter, my photos are posted as links on my Twitter feed. When you get home, it is easy to add captions to your photo posts and my page collects several shares from others looking for Tumblr photos.

YouTube – If your SMS-enabled phone has a camera, it probably has video capability. This is one is new to me, but I have found it is a great way to post 30-second video updates online. YouTube sends me a confirmation of my upload with a link that is then easy to share in a tweet or other updates. Once again, it is easy to update settings and titles when you get home at night. Downside: size and length of video files is limited via text message, so you will have to save those longer videos for uploading at home.

Blogging – If you are like me, several blog post ideas come to mind during the workday. Instead of losing those ideas, or trying to find a place to write them down, I just text message my blog post prompts to my blogging account. Sites like Blogger and WordPress have text message capabilities. Depending on your settings, posts via text message can be saved as drafts or be a direct post. It is difficult to send large posts, but short thoughts, photos or prompts are an easy task. Comments and other settings can be managed via text message as well.

Connecting with text messages is not limited to social media. With account settings on my favorite websites, I can receive breaking news updates from local and national networks, score updates through ESPN, market updates on relevant commodities, or send and receive emails. Through services like Google (466-453) or Cha-Cha (242-242), I can ask random questions, receive forecast information, or find addresses and phone numbers for a local business.

Most websites where you have an account have mobile notification settings. Just take a minute at home to update these settings and improve your access. Remember, it is not always about keeping up with the Jones’ and not everyone needs a smartphone. Sometimes having less information (and distractions) at our fingertips can be a good thing.

Do you have any more recommendations for staying connected via text messages and dumb-phones?

Ryan Goodman comes from an Arkansas cattle ranching family. Since growing up on a family cow/calf and stocker-calf operation, he has spent the last several years learning about production systems across the country. A graduate of Oklahoma State, Ryan recently moved to Tennessee to begin work on a Master’s degree. He works continuously to share his story of ranch life through community outreach and social media, all while encouraging others in agriculture to do the same. Ryan’s daily blog updates can be found at www.AgricultureProud.com.