January 31st, 2012 – #AgChat Ag Degrees and Jobs

AgChat on Ag Degrees and CareersAg Degrees Are Key Growing food and getting it to consumers is not all about planting seeds into the ground. Knowing how plant biology works and working through the logistics of shipping 1 million tonnes of grain requires study and education. This lively AgChat shares how agriculture degrees are important.

AgChat Foundation Welcomes Four New Board Members

MEDIA CONTACT:

Heidi H. Nelson, Harvest PR

503-880-6313 / heidi@harvest-pr.com

MINNEAPOLIS—Four new members have joined the AgChat Foundation board of directors, adding different types of experience in social media and agriculture to the nonprofit, announces President Darin Grimm. Last month, organic dairy farmer Emily Zweber, Elko, Minn., was named the organization’s first executive director.

“All four of our new board members have been actively engaged in the AgChat community for some time and have enthusiastically embraced the Foundation’s mission,” says Grimm. “A diverse board helps ensure the Foundation serves the needs of all agricultural segments and effectively empowers farmers and ranchers to tell their stories using social media.”

John Blue, Indiana

John Blue has been on the Foundation’s advisory board for two years and has been an important contributor to many of AgChat’s successes. As chief of community creation for Truffle Media Networks, Blue helps engage agriculturally focused audiences through marketing, technology and in-person interactions.

“Social and new media tools allow people to easily share their story with audience groups, large and small,” Blue says. “For those in agriculture, having easy access to social and new media tools is an important step toward having meaningful conversations with others.”

Marie Bowers, Oregon

Marie Bowers is a fifth-generation grass seed farmer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, managing land that has been in her family for more than a century. She graduated from Washington State University with degrees in agriculture and agriculture economics and management, then spent three years in the Farm Credit System.

“When I discovered #agchat on Twitter, it opened many doors and connections,” Bowers says. “It fueled my passion for telling our farm’s story via social media and encouraging others to do the same.”

Jan Hoadley, Alabama

Jan Hoadley grew up on a family farm in Illinois with Charolais cattle. Today she raises poultry and rabbits at Slow Money Farm, tapping technology and tradition to keep the operation viable. Hoadley has a long-standing interest in heritage and rare breeds of livestock and heirloom plants. She currently raises Giant Chinchilla rabbits and several breeds of heritage chickens. Hoadley says social media has been a means of survival and an important promotional tool for building customer connections and direct selling.

“Social media allows people outside our area to view our life on the farm, learn about what we do and why we do it, and communicate their wants and needs with us,” Hoadley says. “Even if some consumers don’t agree with our methods, understanding is a win for everyone.”

Jeff VanderWerff, Michigan

After nearly 10 years on the road in agribusiness, Jeff VanderWerff is back home on his family’s farm near Sparta, Mich., and doing what he loves most: raising corn, wheat, soybeans, apples and peaches with his wife, Alyssa, and brother, father and uncle. Always on the cutting edge of farm technology, VanderWerff first started telling his farm’s story in a 2009 Farm & Ranch Living feature.

“In some cases, I think other farmers are in greater need of information about what we do than the public is,” he says. “Social media helps us connect with other farmers.”

According to Grimm, the background and experiences of the new board members will help AgChat Foundation programming evolve and engage producers across the nation.

Blue, Bowers, Hoadley and VanderWerff, along with the rest of the AgChat Board and the training committee, are planning the nonprofit’s third annual social media and thought-leadership conference. “We will be announcing the city and date shortly,” Grimm says. “Our group is working hard to ensure that the conference content is keeping pace with the rapidly changing social media landscape.”

The AgChat Foundation’s social media conference includes large and small group learning to help establish the confidence individuals need to support agriculture with social media. Past seminar content has included Twitter community building, creating high-impact video, blog basics and more. For more information, visit www.agchat.org.

About the AgChat Foundation

Created in 2009, the AgChat Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to empower farmers and ranchers to “agvocate” via social media platforms. The Foundation educates and equips farmers and ranchers with the skill set needed to effectively engage on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social media services.

Stumble Your Way to More Blog Traffic with StumbleUpon

By: Brian Scott, aka @TheFarmersLife

I’m still pretty new to this agvocate blogging thing.  I’ve had The Farmer’s Life up and running for just under a year now.  So I’m not an expert by any means, but what I have done is this.  I’ve spent a good deal of time learning not just how to tell the story of my farm and agriculture in general, but searching for ways to get my posts to reach out beyond the choir as we like to say.

One thing that has been working for me is StumbleUpon.  What is that you say?  It’s a social network all about sharing web pages that you like.  When you sign up for StumbleUpon you can choose topics that are of interest to you.  One of the topics I stumble most is Agriculture.  Surprise.  While signed in (or using a browser add on like I do) you can hit the Stumble button to be randomly taken to another site under the topic you are interested in.  The pages that come up are those that have been submitted by other Stumblers.  You too can add pages, but it seems it’s bad manners to add your own content.  While stumbling you can also thumb up or thumb down each page and leave a comment for other users to see.  You can also share your findings to other social media platforms.  So it’s basically a way to sit and browse the internet sort of randomly hoping something of interest comes up.  Now might be a good time for me to mention while browsing Agriculture on StumbleUpon I don’t come across a lot of sites about, for lack of a better word, mainstream agriculture.  Many of the sites I’ve seen are about urban ag, small farms, organic, and the like.  Don’t take that the wrong way.  I’m not putting those practices down.  These aren’t bad things, I’m just saying the type of farming I do doesn’t seem to be well represented.  Just an observation.

So those are the basics of stumbling, but that doesn’t really tell you anything about how it drives blog traffic.  Right at the end of 2011 I discovered StumbleUpon had its own URL shortening service su.pr.  You twitter users out there probably see shortened links all the time, and there are lots of shorteners out there.  I had been using bit.ly until recently.  When you login with su.pr you will see some interesting stats about each of your links.  It even suggests the time of day you might want to share your links to get the most visibility.

Now I shorten the links to my blog posts with su.pr and use those short links whenever I share my blog posts on twitter, Facebook and anywhere else I can.  So far they don’t really work on Google+.  They will link to the right place, but the preview you see in your status update won’t show a picture and maybe not even a text preview of the post.  Either way it’s not pretty.  So when on G+ I just use the full link.

When I share my links using the shortened su.pr version my blog traffic really takes off.  At first I had no idea why this was happening.  I wasn’t making the connection as to why one URL shortener would be better than another.  I’m a farmer, not a social media guru.  I wondered that aloud during a #Blogchat session and I got a reply from StumbleUpon.  Apparently when you shorten a link with them it is automatically added to their list of pages.  You just aren’t going through the process of thumbs up or down and adding tags, etc.

From what I’ve read, when another Stumbler adds your post to StumbleUpon that’s when things can really go viral.  Much like you would see with Facebook sharing.  It’s also a very powerful too. Some are saying it drives up to 50% of all referral traffic on top sites.  More traffic than Facebook.  That’s powerful stuff my friends.

Here’s the bottom line based on my experience.  I know sharing these shortened links via su.pr is driving more traffic to my posts.  My stats show that.  I used to put up a post and hope to get a comment or two, and many times I would get none.  Since I’ve been doing this I get multiple comments on each new post.  My post this past Thursday had 844 hits that day.  On Friday it had another 334!  And that’s just for that post and not anything else people are finding.  Granted that post was on a bit of hot topic, but it’s bringing traffic to posts specifically about my farm as well just because more people are on my blog looking around.

One thing I’m really happy about is that I’m being notified almost daily that I have a new email subscriber to my site that will get an email every time I have a new post.  I’ve added some other agvocates posts to StumbleUpon and contacted them about it and asked if they could let me know if it made a difference.  They said it was having a positive effect on their stats too.

Twitter was my number one driver of traffic for several months.  Now twitter is down the list under either Facebook or StumbleUpon at the top spot with search engine traffic coming in second.

My advice to all you blogging agvocates is to start sharing your links this way and see how it works for you.  It’s certainly working for me.  And don’t forget to make it easy for your readers who might be Stumblers to add your posts.  Put a StumbleUpon button on each of your posts.

January 24th, 2012 – #AgChat Ag Water Issues

Ag Water IssuesAg Water Issues Water is a valuable resource that is an absolute must for agriculture. But a bit too much or a bit too little water can cause havoc for those trying to run farms. This AgChat conversation on water highlights some of the issues and activities being done to address them.

January 17th, 2012 – #FoodChat Food, Diets, Health, and Resolutions

FoodChat on Food, Diets, Health, and ResolutionsDiets and Resolutions Food is a key part of life. It keeps us going, it makes us feel better, it inspires us. But sometimes it is bad for us; too salty, too fatty, too much sugar. With the start of the New Year always comes resolutions involving food. This #FoodChat conversation shares some thoughts dietitians, farmers, and consumers have about food and resolutions.