Last week, agvocates from all over the U.S. and Canada were welcomed to the southern charm and hospitality of Charlotte, North Carolina for AgChat Foundation’s 2013 National Agvocacy 2.0 conference. The event began with powerhouse, social media guru Jay Baer, speaking to the philosophy of helping people rather hyping people up about your message. As the presentation went on many participants tweeted quotes such as Janice Person who tweeted, ”Being helpful shouldn’t be dependent on being their customer first. I so see “Miracle on 34th Street” now from a SM perspective #acfc13.” Another attendee, Lindsay Murphy, was spotted tweeting, “Use social media to promote what you can do for someone, how you can be useful – rather than about you.” And, Jen Trout quoted Jay as saying,”Trust is the seed of agvocacy” This is so true!
Following the opening keynote, participants were given mission cards and helped each other accomplish challenges from the cards. Challenges included taking a selfie and posting it on Twitter, sign up for a new social media platform, arm wrestling Dairy Carrie for cheese and downloading a podcast from Janice Person, just to name a few. The interactions provided attendees an opportunity to meet one another in a real life setting.
Before and after lunch the entire clan of agnerds were given the opportunity to pick the brains of agvocates Ray Bowman of RayBowmanLive.com, Brian Scott of TheFarmersLife.com and Karla Pankow of Bossy Acres.com. The panel provided attendees with a bird’s eye view of how this group has been successful using social media to reach beyond the choir of agriculture folks. While listening to the panel Hannah Thompson (@BuckeyeHannah) quoted Ray Bowman on Twitter as saying, “It’s okay to have an opinion. Just don’t tell everyone it’s the one they should have.” A great reminder as we all improve our agvocating skills. As a testament to the success available thru social media, Karla then shared that Bossy Acres sells 98% of their CSA shares via Twitter.
Right on the heels of lunch was a “Perspectives Around the Plate” panel which included dietician and food blogger Rebecca Subbiah of ChowandChatter.com, mommy blogger Christa Threlfall of BrownSugarToast.com, consumer Kristin Davis and Executive Chef Scott Hollingsworth. All four panelists provided eye opening insight on many levels. When asked about food labeling and ‘Food, Inc.’ Christa Threlfall, may have said it best when she said, ”Who ever is the loudest and scariest is going to be heard.” The conversation switched gears and the panelist were discussing the importance of an online presence when Kristin Davis stated, “If you don’t have a website or are not connected to social media you don’t exist to me.” The need for passionate agvocates could not have been demonstrated in a more motivating light.
During lunch, attention was turned to Jenn Dahm who represented the United Farmers and Ranchers Association (USFRA). Providing an update on consumer research, she keyed into the need for transparency across all segments of agriculture. She also spoke to the significance of food labeling and how new innovations such as QR codes and bar codes are important ways consumers are gathering information. Following her presentation past ACF Board Member, Chuck Zimmerman of ZimmComm, had a chance to speak with Jenn and Lisa Cassady. You can listen to their interview here.
As an advanced level conference, #ACFC13 provided participants with an opportunity to attend a selection of breakout and roundtable sessions including effectively utilizing your Facebook feed, the world around being a geek, Pinterest, handling trolls and detractors, photo and video media, goal setting and time management. With standing room only, the Trolls Under the Bridge session gave attendees a chance to see how leading agvocates Brian Scott, Katie Pinke and Ryan Goodman deal with detractors.
A popular highlight of ACF National conferences are the Swap Meets where you can find goodies from each respective attendee which are then traded with items from another attendee’s state or province. This year’s event brought everything from Wisconsin & Minnesota cheese, Kentucky beer, the very trendy alligator snack sticks from Florida, apparel from Dekalb, Asgrow and Nationwide, local sodas such as Merriewine (yummy!) from North Carolina and Ski from southern Illinois, Tennessee Moonpies, Idaho Spud Bars, drink huggies from Texas and numerous other items from across the U.S. and Canada. The festivities continued in the hospitality room where everyone was treated to Sartori cheese from Dairy Carrie and Kentucky Ale from Alltech’s David Butler.
As the conference came to a close everyone was inspired by the outstanding closing keynote given by Laura Daniels, a ‘sassy farmer’ and professional speaker who cares for her family and 300 Jersey cows. While many laughed and cried, it was the inspiration that she poured into the audience which lit the sky. The presentation was a reminder to look into our hearts and find the why behind what you are doing. Use that why to become the hitch pin between non-agricultural folks and your story. And remember that when it comes to agvocating, “if you aren’t feeling butterflies, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.”
We would like to thank all of our wonderful sponsors for making this conference possible! Hats off to USFRA, Alltech, Farm Credit, Minnesota Corn Growers, Syngenta, Dairy Management, Inc., American Farm Bureau Federation, Charleston | Orwig, Truffle Media and Titan Outlet Store.
Other great posts about #ACFC13:
- Charlotte Observer – I’ll Bite: Can you Follow a Farm on Twitter
- The Meating Place – 50 Shades of Farming
- Sara Hewitt/Hewitt Farms, Inc. – Time to Get Loud Farmers: AgChat Conference
- Lara Durben – Be Real and Be Yourself – Inspirations from AgChat
- Janice Person – #Youtility is About Farming & the Longterm-Fitting for #AgNerds
- Jan Hoadley/SlowMoneyFarm – AgChat Foundation Conference
- Sara Hewitt/Hewitt Farms Inc. – AgChat Foundation Conference
- Wanda Patsche (aka Minnesota Farmer) – AgChat Inspirations
- Taylor Short – Let the Invasion Begin
- Rural Ties – Blogging reignited
- Rebecca Subbiah, RDN – Food & Nutrition.org – Reflections on the Agvocacy 2.0 Conference
Be sure to watch for more information about how you could attend a Regional or National AgChat Foundation conference.