Why Do I Agvocate? – Paint the Town Ag

 What is your role in agriculture?

I married into agriculture onto a third generation beef, poultry, and crop farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Coming from a city, I didn’t know a thing about the hard work, dedication, and passion that farmers & ranchers have for their craft, and I’m constantly learning!
Professionally, I work for Virginia Cooperative Extension, a resource through Virginia Tech and Virginia State that takes university research and puts it to work practically in communities across the state. With them, I am the Farm to Table Coordinator, working with Farm to School activities, facilitating farm to institution procurement, and working with area farmers for best management practices.
I also “agvocate” through my personal blog – PaintTheTownAg.com – where I share our family’s chapter in the big book of agriculture.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

Prior to working in Cooperative Extension, I was a preschool special education teacher in an urban school system. I began to notice the disconnect that the kids and their families had with agriculture, even though the city was surrounded by rural area and farms. I started small by bringing agriculture into my classroom on a regular basis, and that evolved into “Farm Friday” for us, a regular partnership with other grades and community members to learn about different aspects of agriculture.
From there I started a school and district-wide program called Farming in the City to connect the elementary kids with agriculture – I’m happy to say that this is something still going strong at the school where I used to teach, even though I am no longer working there.

What is your favorite part of being an agvocate?

My absolute favorite part is being able to answer questions and dispel myths about the “American Farmer.” For most groups or individuals that I encounter, my short hair, glasses, and stylish clothes completely throw them off when I tell them I’m from a farm. It has led to some great conversations!

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

I find two things challenging when advocating for agriculture. For one, Americans in general are very passive about the source of their food, fiber, and fuel. It’s hard to agvocate when the majority are not concerned. The second challenge is being a voice in a sea of passionate individuals who are either 1) working for a cause, or 2) have passion (and speak loudly!) with little factual information.

What advice do you have for other farmers or ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

Don’t hesitate to jump in, but also think carefully about 1) what you want to advocate for within agriculture, and 2) make sure you have resources to support you when questions start rolling your way!
If you married into the farm and are representing the farm at all on social media – make sure you have a pow-wow with the decision-makers on the farm to clarify and come to a consensus on what you will post.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or twitter chat?

I attended the #AgChat conference in Austin last year, as well as hop onto the weekly Twitter chats as much as my schedule allows. The Twitter chats are great for connecting farm/ranch bloggers with consumers. The conference was a way to bring SoMe to life – literally! I met so many people that had only been Gravatars to me before! J This was by far the biggest takeaway, as well as some AMAZING keynote speakers.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation is another “tool in the toolbox” so to speak. I look to the Foundation as a resource and model for conversations, posts, and other engagements.

BrianLaurenCows2015Lauren Arbogast is an avid agvocate and blogs about her story in agriculture at www.paintthetownag.com. Her description: City girl meets farm boy. Asks no less than 7 million questions. Has first date on a tractor. Says “yes” atop a Ferris Wheel. Passes farm wife bar exam. Sprouts 2 mini-farmers. Trades religion for a relationship. Finds the joy in life. Realizes she has a chapter to tell in the book of agriculture. Catch up with Lauren on her blog and on Twitter @PaintTheTownAG.

 

Featured image photo credit to Anna Spears Photography

Farm and Ranch Agvocate Database

ag blogger database image

You asked, we listened! We have received many requests for a resource guide which organizes agriculture agvocates’ blogs and social media pages by production type, methods or area of food production. There are numerous aspects of agriculture and this will provide a resource when you’ve received a question pertaining to an area which you unfamiliar. For example, a turkey farmer has received a question about the side dressing process. The turkey farmer can access this document and find a row crop farmer who can assist in answering the question.

Just click on the image to link to the Farm and Ranch Agvocate Database, or click here! Are you a Twitter lover? Then click here for a list of the agvocate’s Twitter handles (in a Twitter list, of course!).

Do you write an ag related blog or agvocate on social media on a page that isn’t included in the list? Please leave your blog URL, your twitter handle, Instagram handle, and/or Facebook page link in the comments below and we will check it out!

 

New Series: Why do I agvocate? – Farm Barbie

We are pleased to bring agriculture advocates a new series called “Why Do I Agvocate?” Often times we can become caught up in the numbers, likes, views, rates and the excitement of social media. We set expectations for ourselves, our blogs, Facebook farm or fan pages and at times become driven by metrics. When the metric benchmarks aren’t achieved we become frustrated or discouraged. 

Some may find success in their stats or metrics expectation. However before many “agvocates” realize it their original reason of “Why Do I Agvocate?” is gone. Social media then potentially becomes a numbers game. Social media should never be about the numbers but the connections and the impacts you make, big or small.

We can forget why we began advocating for agriculture, telling our stories or agvocating, whichever descriptor you prefer. Others may hold certain expectations of what you should be accomplishing in your advocacy journey. In either case, you cannot let that detract you from your original goal of Agvoacy. The hardcore truth is that there’s a high likelihood that at some point we have all fallen to the numbers and expectations. In an effort to bring the ‘why’ back to advocating, we want to share each other’s ‘whys.’ This week we are beginning with Farm Barbie who has a fantastic story behind her ‘why.’

The Why Behind Farm Barbie written by Barbara Siemen

I didn’t grow up in a small town, or even on a farm. My family lived on a beach, with a lake as our front yard. I attended Catholic school. Everything I wanted or needed was within a 20-minute drive. I consider myself a true city-girl at heart, but now I’m living the life of a country-girl complete with cows in my backyard, more tractor traffic down our road than  cars, and straw, random bolts, and other lovely surprises in my washing machine. How did that happen? Love.

I went to Michigan State University as a Criminal Justice major. After spending my high school years involved in my local police department’s Explorer’s Program, I was bound to be an officer. I had respect and admiration for the law and those who uphold it on the streets. I was determined to remove criminals from society. I loved the feel of a Glock in my hand, the weight of Kevlar on my chest, the look of a fresh-pressed uniform, and the scent of the locker room. We had regular monthly meetings and our own uniforms. I went on ride-a-longs every weekend. I knew the LEIN system, proper search procedure, and could take down and cuff a 250-pound man in seconds. I loved it.

One day, Freshman year in South Hubbard Hall at MSU, I was in the cafeteria eating with my friends, decked out in camouflage pants and a white t-shirt, when I spotted him. Fresh from the weight room wearing a white tank top, yellow mesh shorts, and black lifting gloves, he sauntered into the cafeteria like a boss. I pointed him out to my friends. I was in love.

Dorm dates turned into weekend trips “back home” where I spent time alongside him in a tractor, the milking parlor, or at his family’s frequent gatherings. I was in love with him, but I was falling in love with this occupation and his community. I knew I would be with this man for the rest of my life, but being a cop in a small town would be a super tough job. I decided my future family was more important than my own career aspirations, so I changed my major to English, since language was the only other strength I had and loved as much.

After graduation, we married and moved “back home” to where generations of Siemens’ had lived. We live in the same house he grew up in, on the same parcel of land that his family has owned for over 100 years. We continue the family farming tradition with our three children, in the hopes that they will someday carry on the legacy. Though I don’t have a job outside on the farm, I take care of the office stuff and I blog about agriculture as a way to reach consumers. The reason I do it is really all about love.

Darrin works hard, long hours, and puts all our investments in Mother Nature’s hands, hoping to reap a reward in the future. It takes an enormous amount of faith and love to do this every year. After being married for almost 14 years and watching him toil or triumph over and over, his pure love for agriculture has been transported to me. His love is my love, it’s our family’s love, it’s our future love.

On my blog, and across social media, I share various facets of our life. I show readers our daily happenings, so they can see that we are just like them. I share facts about agriculture, so they can understand that we use science and technology in addition to hard work and dedication to provide quality food to them. I offer recipes, so other moms like me can have options for feeding their family, too. I do all of this out of love, and because it also gives me a creative outlet, a purpose in life apart from my husband and kiddos, and a connection to others I wouldn’t otherwise know in life.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that everyone has struggles and is passionate about something different, which is what makes us all so interesting and unique. A woman that lost her mother to breast cancer might be a prominent voice for breast cancer awareness and research. Someone that has suffered at the abusiveFarm barbie and family hands of a loved one might be a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter. Farmers areno different than anyone else. We are a voice for that thing that we love so much, that thing that has touched our lives and changed us forever. We yearn for the opportunity to reach one more person, to show them our farm, tell them about our animals, to dispel any myths. We get offended when someone questions our intentions or integrity, because we are deeply hurt by the accusation.

I hope through the mirror of their computer screen, readers can see themselves in us; we are human and we make mistakes too. Every day we get up and try our best. We strive and struggle. We conquer and celebrate.
At the end of the day, that thing that makes it all worth it, is love. Farm Barbie is human, and she loves.

 

 

______________________________

FarmBarbie

Barbara Ann, also known as Farm Barbie, is a city girl turned country chick, thanks to falling in love with a farmer. Now, she’s a stay at home mom and professional farmer’s wife. She is also an amateur photographer, chef, and fashionista and an aspiring children’s book author. Read more about Farm Barbie on her blog www.farmbarbie.com, tweet with her @BarbaraSiemen, and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Water Conversations

Water ConversationWater Conversation March 3rd is the #AgChat on the topic of #Water. This chat is sponsored by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (Twitter: @NIAA_Comm ), whose 2015 annual conference is focused on water (conference registration)

Join in, March 3rd, 8-10pm ET with #AgChat on Twitter. Have questions? DM them to @AgChat.


Water continues to be a topic of conversation (for many year certainly). Some recent media happenings include:

  • PBS’ Water story, #EARTHWildPBS [video].
  • Dr. Attari at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (@SPEAIUB) shares consumer research on people belief about water usage [audio].
  • Via NASA, First Global Rainfall and Snowfall Map [YouTube].

30 Days: 22.2 Blog Post Ideas for Farmers and Ranchers

Whether you call a farm or ranch home or not, every time you turn around something about food, fiber, or fuel grabs the headlines. There’s no lack of interest in agriculture, but sometimes the overwhelming vast sea of ideas overpowers the simple step forward. Here are some creative & fun ways to get your fingers loosened up to spread the word: agriculture is real, agriculture is relevant, and agriculture is right now.

  1. It’s obvious? But maybe it’s not. Use your farm family!
  2. Farm or ranch dogs have quite the job. And the personality to go with it. Write those 22.2 Blog Post Ideas for Farmers and Ranchers - 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media - AgChat.orgstories down!
  3. Current events! [At the risk of sounding like your 8th grade government teacher: “Pay attention to the news!”]
  4. Family dynamics. Do you farm/ranch with your sister? Father-n-law? Second cousin once removed? What makes the relationship work? What gets in the way? Let’s face it, family drama is in every life, but somehow when you add in ________ (insert large amount of land, equipment, livestock, etc.) it gets a little more interesting.
  5. Seasons change in suburbia, but seasons change in the wide open. Grab your camera of choice and show the city folk what autumn, spring, summer, or winter really mean!
  6. Ever tried to count the number of jobs that a farmer/rancher does on a daily basis? Go ahead, accept the challenge. Ready … go!
  7. Your cows are out. (NO! Not those cows!) Livestock getting out, causing chaos, just simply being the curious animals that they are. Once all is safe and accounted for, tell the story!
  8. So you like Dancing with the Stars? Can’t do without your NFL nights? Tell the world. You’re just like any other human.
  9. Farm/ranch with animals? Hello. Stories abound.
  10. Natural disaster? Weather wreck? Get the word out. Keep it raw, don’t sugarcoat. Sometimes the world can use a reality check.
  11. Your mother in law called. Again. (*This is a write-at-your-own-risk post. ☺)
  12. If you have kids (yes, your spouse can be categorized as such, perhaps depending on the 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media - 22.2 Blog Post Ideas - AgChat.orgday) – they provide an unrelenting source of stories, quotes, and just plain fun.
  13. Farmer missed dinner … again. Why? Tell about it.
  14. So you grow organic potatoes and have poultry on a larger scale. Oh yeah, and rabbits on the side. Don’t forget your pick your own strawberry patch. Whatever you grow/produce/raise, tell about how you do it, who does it, when you do it, and most importantly – why you do what you do.
  15. It’s no surprise that working outdoors with nature connects you to the spiritual side of Mama Earth – what helps to get you through the day? Share the inspiration.
  16. Do you play the favorite color game? (Ahem…green paint here) – strike up a fun rivalry with another farm/ranch blogger and let the paint chips fly!
  17. A business or restaurant speaking for or against something in agriculture that strikes your passion? Tell why/why not you agree/disagree. Be real, be transparent – be you.
  18. You’re not just a farmer/rancher. You have other interests or hobbies. Chat it up.
  19. Anyone in the family have a job off the farm/ranch?  Do they take agriculture into their workplace in any way? Spread the word – you may spark ideas in other communities.
  20. What does your farm/ranch do for your community? Volunteer? Ring the Salvation Army Christmas bell? Take food to the local food bank? Tell how your farm/ranch gives back.
  21. Carpet farming. Have you heard of it? My mini farmers do it.
  22. So Farmer just left for his once in a lifetime boys weekend. And you are in charge of his 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media - 22.2 Blog Post Ideas for Farmers and Ranchers - AgChat.orgshare of work. And yours too. And the kids. Forget cleaning the house, and put pizza on speed dial. Once you recover from double round-the-clock duty, blog ‘er up.
    1. It’s been said many times through this list, but it bears repeating for emphasis on the last .2. FAMILY is the source of strength for farm & ranch families, as well as a source of stories. Tell your story in your own words. Relive the laughter, share the sorrows, and let the world see what you do.

Lauren writes about farm life and fun life on her blog, www.PaintTheTownAG.com. Farmer is her actual Farmer, and is the inspiration for many of her posts. Together they are part of a multi-generational beef, poultry, and crop farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Tweet with her @PaintTheTownAG, or follow on Instagram @paintthetownag. See you around the farm!