The Far-Reaching Legacy of @ITweetMeat

Michele Payn-Knoper, ACF Board Member

Voices come and go in today’s social world, some without notice. You could never say that about Chris Raines, perhaps most well-known as @itweetmeat (a handle that’s been held up as an example for many). His personality lived large online; his wit brought many smiles and his candor entertained hundreds.  We didn’t know him as Dr. Raines, we simply knew him as THE source of information about meat and his unwavering belief in having a well-rounded discussion based on science. Not everyone agreed with him, but Chris managed his conversations in a way that built relationships. As news of his shocking death spread through social media yesterday, those relationships became apparent on his Facebook page and through the #itweetmeat feed on Twitter.

Chris served as a member of the founding Board of Directors for the AgChat Foundation as a representative of Extension.  He wrote our first successful grant; the one that turned into support from Harvest PR, which resulted in the Foundation’s training being featured in food publications and advocates being featured in USA Today.  Chris was also a part of the Training Committee and helped build the learning assessments for the first training conference in Chicago and then provide program insight for ACFC11 in Nashville.  We asked him to be a part of the board because of his early adoption of social media, unique perspective and modern representation of Extension. We found much more than that in his voice that still lives large online.

Chris at the 2010 AgChat Foundation Conference

Sometimes that voice drove me nuts, especially when I was trying to chair virtual committee meetings and Chris was on the train in New York, sharing his travel highlights in the midst of our work. And we had many behind-the-scenes heated debates about exactly how to best have the conversation about farming and food. But at the end of those debates, we both knew that we wanted to accomplish a better conversation around agriculture- and that’s what mattered more than our personal opinions.  We both enjoyed beautiful pictures on international travel and goading each other once in awhile. One week before his death, I had the rare chance to see Chris while I was at Penn State for a speaking engagement. He texted me a “Welcome to SCE” when he saw the tweet that I had landed. We had dinner later that evening with colleagues from PennAg and MidAtlantic Dairy. I gave him a big hug when we greeted and we spent a part of dinner talking up the value of social media to our colleagues. Chris made us all laugh with his @itweetmeat stories as an academic. I’m fairly certain I said “See ya later” as we parted. I really wish I would have told him what a great job he does, how I enjoy his questioning and that his challenges make people think. Let that be a lesson for us all.

It seems so trivial to memorialize someone in a blog post. Yet Chris’ legacy is readily apparent in our social world and amongst the community that knew him virtually.  Jan Hoadley, a small farmer in Alabama, said “Chris had a means of getting people to think no matter how much they thought they knew – and challenged the why of the view without being insulting about it. He was an effective agvocate even with te difficult critics.  If I had a question, he was always open to it. I don’t know how he had the time sometimes, but it was definitely a model to follow.”  Amanda  Sollman, an agvocate from Michigan and now in Minnesota, points to Chris’ teaching skills, though she never sat in a class with him.  Many have written about Dr. Chris Raines.

College Mourns the Loss of Meat Scientist Chris Raines-Penn State College of Agriculture Sciences

Missing the Enthusiasm of Chris Raines, aka @iTweetMeat-Janice Person

Missing a Friend and a Great Teacher-Amanda Sollmana

The Good Die Young-Andy Vance

Reflections about Dr. Chris Raines from a Friend, Colleague and Follower-Amy Ridenour

Carpe diem, Before It is Too Late-Jesse Bussard

We’ll Miss You Chris Raines-Jan Hoadley

Social Media: Awesome and Devastating-Ryan Goodman

On tragedy: There is a reason why we just need to figure it out ourselves- Susan Crowell

In Memory of Dr. Chris Raines- Ulla Kjarval

We’ll simply leave it at this.  Thank you for your service, Chris. You will be sorely missed. There’s a huge community of sending out prayers for you and your family. And we hope you figure out how to tweet from heaven.

The AgChat Foundation is working with interested parties to create a memorial that reflects Dr. Raines’ commitment to engaging diverse communities in social media around the topic of food production. For more information or how to become involved please emails us at info@agchat.org