30 Days: The Right Way to Agvocate

I started participating in the Tuesday night #AgChat conversations nearly five years ago and have been on the AgChat Foundation 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media: The Right Way to Agvocate - Agchat.orgboard for three years. Throughout those years I have encountered AgVocates from across the country that have found success, big or small, in telling their farm or ranch story through social media. These successful AgVocates are more than happy to share their tips and tricks on the best ways they have found to accomplish their AgVocacy goals.

Here’s always my biggest takeaway from these success stories: EVERYONE AgVocates Differently.

There is no RIGHT way. There is the way that works best for you.  The way you find that is most effective for you & your audience. Do not force yourself to do anything that does not feel right for you because then the authenticity of your story is lost.

AgVocacy is a lot like farming.

We have probably all visited our neighbor’s farm and wondered why in the heck they organized their tools or parts in a certain way, why they planted that crop, or what they’re going to use that new implement for.  Everyone farms slightly differently and everyone agvocates slightly differently.

As farmers we have also learned from our neighbors.  We have borrowed that new implement or piece of equipment to see if it would work for us.  We have planted that new crop to see if it fit into our crop rotation.  Some things we have adopted and molded from our neighbors to fit our farm and vice versa.  And, somethings just do not work for our farm.

That is farming and AgVocacy.

Realize that you don’t have to blog, tweet, facebook, instagram, YouTube, etc… exactly like those AgVocates who have found success. You do not have to be on every platform. Choose the ones that work for you and fit your AgVocacy style. As long as you strive to do it well and you will find success!

Diversity makes the agriculture world go ’round. Diversity also makes the AgVocacy world go ’round.

written by Marie Bowers


Born and raised in southern Willamette Valley, Marie Bowers is the fifth generation who is farming on her family’s century old Marie Bowers AgChat Foundation - AgChat.orggrass seed farm. She is a Washington State University alum who hails from a long list of agriculture advocates, beginning with her great-grandmother who helped found Oregon Women for Agriculture. As a second grader, her dad took her to the Capitol to listen to field burning legislative hearings. As a fourth generation agvocate, she blogs about her story and information about farms and forests at OregonGreenBlog.com

30 Days: How to Create An Insta-Farm on Instagram

If you’ve been in the social media world for some time, you’ve likely heard that ‘content is king.’ We need to be How to create and Insta-farm or ranch - 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media from AgChat.orgproviding quality subject matter which keeps readers on your blogs and websites. More recently we’ve watched this paradigm change, putting more emphasis on photos, graphics and images. You might say if content is king, then images are the emperor. While this is new to blogs and websites, society has been favoring visionary over publications for decades. The average person would rather sit down and watch a two hour movie than spend 8-9 hours reading a book. As social media has dominated our lives, people’s attentions spans have decreased even further. Enter popular social media channels such as Instagram, Pinterest and SnapChat.

Another prominent trend is utilizing story telling versus educating. As farmers and ranchers, we are excellent story tellers who have truly been provided a gold mine platform in using Instagram. Honestly, I’ve struggled with being consistent on Instagram and by no means am an expert. I would like to share some tips and tricks I’ve discovered along the way:

1.) Profiles & Bios: An extremely important part of making Instagram work for you. Rather than just listing yourself as a farmer or rancher, also add information about your life off the farm such as golfing, biking, have a passion for baking, quilting, working as a volunteer for your children’s school or home renovation. You could also like a favorite item or aspect of your life – favorite food, town, fair, grocery store, book, movie or tv show. Make your bio relatable to those outside of agriculture.

2.) URL: The website field is the only place that Instagram allows hyperlinks. This is an open door to your farm or ranch. I wouldn’t over analyze it but you could chose to send people to a specific page on your blog or website such as your about page, a contest page, your most viewed post or even your Facebook fan page. The URL could even be linked to an article you have written for someone else. The possibilities are broad.

3.) Public versus private: This is a subject which could be a stand alone blog post. Today, we’ll focus on the benefits of setting your profile to public. Statistics show that people are much less likely to follow you if they can not see your images. There are also less likely to follow if they do not see any commonalities to their lives. Posting photos other than what is happening around the farm is important to connecting with those off the farm. Even if a person requests to follow you, they may not return to view your photos once they’ve been approved. Its a balance between your comfort level and the goals you are striving for in agriculture advocacy.

4.) Explaining how hashtags work: One of the ways we find each other on Instagram is by searching for hashtags. The hashtags organize the photos into different categories. As I researched various profiles for this blog post I noticed that the hashtags being used tend to be more farmer/rancher talk than non-ag dialog, including my own. For example, in this photo I’m showing a photo of one of my sons showing his heifer. For my farm and dairy Use descriptive hashtags when posting on Instagram. AgChat.orgfriends, they understand what is happening, others may not. The hashtag #jerseys is a popular search term on my website but not for jersey cattle. Generally, people are looking for baseball or football jerseys and there’s always a random reference to the television program Jersey Shore. Which is great. Its reaching beyond our industry. However, I do not include enough hashtags or comments to help them understand what is happening in the photo. Another example, which caught my eye during my research, is a tractor in the field side dressing. Its unlikely that non-ag folks will understand what is happening. Just be sure you are using hashtags which explain the photo or you accompany captions with the hashtags.

Nicole Small of A Kansas Farm Mom uses series on Instagram as a way to connect with those outside agriculture - 30 Days of Agvocacy & Social Media - AgChat.org5.) How many hashtags should be used?: While Instagram allows for up to 30 hashtags, keeping the volume at 4-6 is the recommendation.  Utilizing popular hashtags to gain followership is discouraged and may even result in having your account blocked. The golden rule when using hashtags is to use them sparingly and keep them relevant.

6.) Post a series of photos: I have to pick on Nicole Small, again. This past growing season she documented a field of corn which her son helped plant with is own seed. She pushed updates on various social media channels showing the stand growth, silking and tasseling as well as harvest. Sprinkled within her timeline I also found non-ag related photos such as a pair of necklaces her family made together. The key is creating an emotional story through your photos.

Creating a Insta-farm or Insta-ranch on Instagram may seem daunting {it has been for me}, however, by using the correct hashtags, explaining the photos in the caption and shooting a series of photos and ones which tell as story, it can be done.

written by Jenny Schweigert


Jenny serves as the AgChat Foundation Executive Director while helping manage her family’s small hobby farm and in-laws dairy farm in central Illinois. In addition to AgChat.org, she can be found blogging about life on the farm, Jersey dairy cattle, hunting and her boys, all at TheMagicFarmHouse.com.Jenny Schweigert - AgChat.org photo courtesy of Keiser Photography https://www.facebook.com/KeiserPhotography




30 Days: What Do You Know About #Hashtags?

Have you watched the hashtag skit, #Hashtag2 from Jimmy Fallon and Jonah Hill or my personal favorite, #Hashtag with Jimmy and Justin Timberlake? While the skits are hilarious, they beg the question – what is the purpose behind hashtags? Since the hashtag is such a significant reason that the AgChat Foundation exists, I’d like to cover some of the basics behind it.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag occurs when the hash mark or pound sign is used in front of a word or series of words. When a hashtagSearching #AgChat - 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social media on AgChat.org is used, it categorizes the word(s) in a searchable form. It was an idea proposed by developer Chris Messina via a tweet on Twitter. Initially, Twitter rejected the idea but in October of 2007, citizen journalists began using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire, at Messina’s urging, to provide updates on several area fires. The hashtag has gone from having a structural purpose on Twitter to today where it organizes information on a series of social media platforms. In the process, its also become a trend of the 2010’s and is used in texts, advertisements and more as a new form of expression.

What can be included within a hashtag?

A hashtag can include several words but will not string those words together if there are spaces. In lieu of spaces, use capital letters to differentiate between each of the words in the string. Also, numbers are completely fair game and are supported following the hash mark. You do need to avoid using any types of punctuation marks such as commas, periods, exclamation points, etc… This is also true of other special charters such as ampersands.  The ampersand or ‘@’ isn’t meaningless as it powers a person’s handle.

Twitter Chats or Parties

In general, there isn’t a set list of hashtags. There are however, organizations and businesses such as the AgChat Foundation who have claimed certain hashtags such as #AgChat. The same concept can be applied for campaigns such as sponsor Tyson’s #myAgStory campaign or even recent political efforts. Watching and attending non-ag chats or parties is a great way to connect with non-ag people.

Which social media platforms support the use of hashtags?

Twitter: Hashtags were born on Twitter and it will always hold bragging rights over their use. When Michele Payn-Knoper began using the hashtag #AgChat in April of 2009, the weekly chats were born. At that time chats or Searching for #AgChat on Pinterest - 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media on AgChat.orgparties were a hip new concept that was quickly catching fire. Several years later we continue to host the #AgChat conversations every Tuesday, 8-10pmET, except for the third Tuesday of the month when we hold #FoodChat, a sister chat which is directed towards consumers.

Instagram: Hashtags are a fantastic way to search for new followers who have common interests. Although they are certainly searchable, the use of hashtags as a way of expression is more prevalent on Instagram than Twitter. The use of expression has led to some Instagram specific hashtags such as #dogsofinstagram, #ThrowbackThursday and #photogram.

Facebook: While Facebook has been a pioneer in the world of social media, it was late to the game where hashtags are concerned. It wasn’t until recently that Facebook began supporting the use of hashtags as a way to search for information. Even so, searching for hashtags on Facebook hasn’t become mainstream as of yet.

Pinterest: Hashtags can be used on Pinterest to both mark a pin or search for content. When clicking on a hashtag within a pin, you can navigate through returned results which contain that hashtag. Pinterest also brings up pins with the same word or phrase as the hashtag.

How can the use of hashtags create content for your readers?

There are third-party apps and sites such as Hashtags.org which can show you which hashtags are trending in real time. It can be beneficial to know what the hot topics are and then create accompanying content which may draw more readers to your blog.

Generating Buzz Using Hashtags

Early in my Twitter career, I ran a weekly list called Monday’s Magical Top Ten #Tweethearts. It wasn’t a chat or party per say but for an hour every Monday night, I highlighted ten people who I found interesting on Twitter. Some weeks I would publish a blog post which included descriptions and explanations about why the person should be highlighted. I was strategical in how I chose the #Tweethearts each week. My goals were to increase my following on Twitter and to connect with non-ag people while also exposing them to farmers and ranchers. The weekly listing was a huge draw and an efficient way to gain new followers. It did require a large amount of time to research, select and run the live list. The time commitment away from my family led to the discontinuation of the weekly listing.

Why should you use hashtags?

  • Think of hashtags as keywords which will narrow your target audience
  • Hashtags are an efficient way to drive traffic to your blog
  • The concept of Twitter parties and chats are based on the use of hashtags. Attending these conversations are an excellent way to connect beyond the choir.
  • On average, tweets which include a hashtags will see twice as much engagement

written by Jenny Schweigert


Jen Schweigert - TheMagicFarmHouse.comJenny serves as the AgChat Foundation Executive Director while helping manage her family’s small hobby farm and in-laws dairy farm in central Illinois. In addition to AgChat.org, she can be found blogging about life on the farm, Jersey dairy cattle, hunting and her boys, all at TheMagicFarmHouse.com.





Farmers collaborate for second world Twitter chat on October 16th

One year after the success of the first world-wide Twitter discussion among farmers, the #AgriChatWorld team is organizing a second global live chat for World Food Day 2014. Farmers will be asked to share their experiences on the role of family farming and the responsibilities they share in feeding the world.

The chat will mark World Food Day (WFD) on Thursday, October 16, 2014 and is being organized by a collaboration of farming Twitter groups gathered under the @AgriChatWorld umbrella – @AgChat and @AgChatFound (AgChat Foundation-North America), @EUFoodchat, @AgrichatUK, @AgrichatNL (Netherlands), @AgchatOZ (Australia), @AgchatDE (Germany)@AgchatIRL (Ireland) and @AgchatNZ1 (New Zealand).

Last year, more than 700 farmers from 17 different countries, covering 4 continents, took part in the 90 minute chat, totaling more than 3,600 tweets. #AgriChatWorld represents a unique opportunity to join a truly global community passionate about their work and willing to celebrate food production.

The North American based AgChat Foundation will join the #AgriChatWorld discussion which will be facilitated by @EUFoodChat handle who will release questions for debate between 3pm-4:30pmET. All farmers, ranchers, food bloggers and anyone with an interest in the food system is encouraged to attend by utilizing the Twitter social media platform. Tweeters will need to use the hash tags #AgriChatWorld, and, when space allows #WFD2014. The main language will be English; other languages being welcomed to allow for wider participation.

Farmers and ranchers in each country are also asked to share photos of their farms and their family farming experience using the hashtag #WorldFarmPics. The pictures will be collated by @EUFoodChat on a Pinterest board.

These organizations are primarily driven by their passion for agriculture advocacy. In 2009, Amercian farmer and professional speaker, Michele Payn-Knoper began hosting weekly #AgChat conversations on Twitter. The following year the AgChat Foundation, Inc., was co-founded by Payn-Knoper and several other farmers and ranchers. Since that time, other ‘agchats’ and ‘agrichats’ around the world have been created, offering farmers in different countries an online space to meet and debate agricultural issues.

For additional information about the second annual #AgriChatWorld discussion, contact Jenny Schweigert, ACF Executive Director at execdir@agchat.org.

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).


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.