Jenny Schweigert Becomes AgChat Foundation’s New Executive Director

Jenny Schweigert Becomes AgChat Foundation New Executive DirectorThe new Executive Director aims to expand the nonprofit AgChat Foundation (ACF) by connecting with college students, and through focused regional & national events.

Schweigert will focus on advancing ACF’s mission by leading the fundraising campaigns that will support new workshops, educational series, and conferences, like the 2014 Cultivate & Connect Conference. She will also work with the ACF’s Board of Directors to build broad awareness of ACF across agriculture and consumer organizations, and provide day-to-day management oversight.

Jenny offers the fund raising and creative talent the Foundation needs to advance the connections with consumers, farmers, and the public,” says Jeff VanderWerff, ACF president. “The Foundation is aiming to build up its connectivity through regional workshops and conference series, and Jenny’s creative approach to tackling this stood head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates.

VanderWerff looks to ACF’s strong presence in connecting with farmers and ranchers of all ages and backgrounds to be a solid base on which to grow. With Schweigert’s direction, ACF will set the stage for an expanded regional workshop series for AgChat Conference alumni and college students, as well as expand the highly successful national conference for the fall of 2015.

Jenny received her bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness with an emphasis in Animal Science, and Marketing from Illinois State University, later receiving graphic and web design training through Illinois Community College. Previously, she served as the ACF’s Director of Communications and as Marketing Specialist for the Hopedale Medical Complex in Hopedale, Illinois. Jenny, and her husband, Jeff, and their three sons, operate a small family farm while also assisting on her in-law’s Jersey dairy operation, both in central Illinois.

About the AgChat Foundation

The AgChat Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, empowers farmers and ranchers with the necessary tools to share their stories with those disconnected from agriculture. The organization offers customized training for companies and organizations, regional conferences, alumni and collegiate events, an annual global conference, and weekly #AgChat conversations on Twitter every Tuesday, 8-10 p.m. ET (except for the third Tuesday of the month when #FoodChat is hosted).

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If you would like additional information about the AgChat Foundation or to schedule an interview, contact Jenny Schweigert at 309-241-8803 or email execdir@agchat.org.

Austin Cultivate & Connect Creates Inspiration

Cultivate & Connect conference in Austin, TX Aug 21 & 22The AgChat Foundation’s 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference was held in Austin, TX, August 21 and 22, with over 140 farmers, ranchers, and ag communications professionals attending from the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The resounding theme of the event was to learn more about how digital and social media can assist with cultivating open-minded conversation with consumers while connecting them to agriculture’s story.

Topics such as building digital communities, creating farmer engagement, and cultivating relationships beyond the choir were all part of the expansive offering which included 17 break out sessions. Key panels, which included “What Chefs & Moms Really Say About the Food You Are Growing” and “5 Questions Every Farmer and Rancher Needs to Learn to Answer”, provided unique insight about developing conversation with those who are disconnected from their food.

Keynote presentations were provided by conference catalyst, Thom Singer, who emphasized the need for human connection, as well as breakfast keynote Katie Uhlaender, Olympic skeleton racer and rancher who shared her story as a city girl turned Olympian turned rancher. The final keynote, Bruce Vincent, logger and motivational speaker, closed the conference by setting attendees off with dynamite enthusiasm.

The conference also included an evening banquet, beginning with the presentation of the 2014 Social Media Farmer of the Year Award, awarded to farmer and blogger Carrie Mess, followed by the annual Ag Swap and private concert from country music recording artist, Jason Eady.

When asked about her experience farmer, ag professional and blogger Taysha Reitzel replied, “My biggest takeaway from the conference was getting to hear so many different perspectives from the industry. Sometimes we get so used to justifying our own thoughts, it’s refreshing to hear other points of view that make us think and go into a conversation with open ears and an open mind. A definite highlight would be the networking opportunity. With so many industry people in one place, the opportunity to connect is huge. And, of course, the Jason Eady concert, because he is amazing!!”

Who Is The Social Media Farmer Of The Year?

Who Is The Social Media Farmer Of The Year?Carrie Mess, a dairy farmer and self-described “agvocate” was named the Social Media Farmer of the Year at the AgChat Foundation’s Cultivate & Connect Show in Austin, Texas. Sponsored by leading food industry publication Food Nutrition & Science, this award recognizes farmers who have incorporated social media, digital media and internet strategies to achieve their business objectives including growing revenue, sharing information for more effective farming practices, and promoting positive awareness of the industry.

“Carrie has clearly used social media as a tool to help promote her farm, the industry and also as a platform for social change,” says Phil Lempert, editor of Food Nutrition & Science. “This is our first award and she’s a stellar example of how farmers can use social media to educate the industry and consumers and make change.”

Mess and her family run Mesa Dairy, a Lake Mills, Wisconsin-based dairy and crops farm with 100 milking cows, 120 young stock and 300 acres of crops. She initially began using social media to connect with other farmers around the country. Today, she posts three times daily promoting her business and sharing snapshots of farm life. She also uses social media for social initiatives. In 2011 during a drought, Mess solicited donations from Wisconsin farmers to fund seven semi-loads of donated hay to farmers in Oklahoma and Texas.

In addition, after an open letter to a corporate restaurant chain in her blog, The Adventures of Dairy Carrie, the company removed a marketing campaign that many farmers found offensive and now has aligned with an agricultural organization. Her blog has grown from 55,000 page views in 2012 to more than 1.1 million in 2013 and articles have been picked up by Huffington Post, The Guardian and local news stations.

The Social Media Farmer of the Year Award also is being sponsored by Monsanto, Bolthouse Farms, AgChat Foundation, Inc., and AgWired.com.

AgChat Foundation Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

AgChat Foundation Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

If you are on the internet, you have heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. If you have been hiding under a rock, it is a viral phenomenon where individuals and companies are challenging each other to either A) dump a bucket of very cold ice water on themselves or B) donate to the ALS Association. This is all to raise awareness for ALS.

ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), better known as Lou Gehrig disease, is a neurodegenerative disease. This fatal disease affects the nerve cells (motor neurons) that control a person’s muscles. There is no cure for ALS. Over 5,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year.

Recently, our friends over at Monsanto challenged AgChat Foundation to the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS.

AgChat heartily accepts this challenge, because farmers and ranchers are not immune to this disease and we want to support and honor those who continue to be an advocate for agriculture despite their circumstances.

Next week at the fifth annual AgChat Foundation Conference, Cultivate and Connect, we are asking our participants to vote with their donations on which AgChat Foundation board member will have to dunk themselves in icy cold, freezing water. Jars will be available to make donations in at the conference. Participants can simply donate some pocket change, a couple bucks, or a check, to “vote” for their favorite board member.

Not attending Cultivate and Connect? We have a special challenge for you. If we receive over $2,000 in donations by noon on August 22, 2014, both at the conference and through the AgChat Foundation ALS giving page, the ENTIRE board of directors will get dunked!!

This is your chance AgChat community to give back. We will be donating all funds raised in honor of the legacy of Lamar Fesser, Morrisonvile, IL. Mr. Fesser passed away in 2008 from ALS, but this disease didn’t take away his passion for farming and mentoring young farmers and families. Mr. Fesser was an Prairie Master Farmer and also an inaugural member of the Cultivating Master Farmers’ program, were he mentored young farmers. Donations will be giving to St. Louis Chapter of the ALS Association.

Pinterest Basics and Beyond: How to Get the Most from Your Pins

Kathy Swift, one of our Flagship AgNerds, is here to share her experience using Pinterest. Learn some of the steps, tools, and approaches she uses to seek engagement with an audience. Kathy will also share example uses of Pinterest from design, jewelry, and agriculture.

If you registered for the 2014 Cultivate and Connect Conference or registered for the LIVE webinar, you have been emailed instructions to view the recorded webinar.

This webinar by Kathy Swift, held on July 15th, 2014, provided the basics of Pinterest as well as revealed some of her best kept secrets. Did you miss registering for the live webinar? No worries. A recording of the webinar will be offered again on Wednesday, July 23rd at 7pmET. Register today!

If you just want to see and hear this Pinterest webinar and then later register for the Cultivate & Connect conference, the Pinterest webinar fee will be applied to the conference registration [conference registration] seating is limited!!