The Right Way to Agvocate

from AgChat Board Member & #AgChat/#FoodChat Committee Chairperson, Marie Bowers

At the end of this week most of my favorite AgNerds will be gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina. The AgChat Foundation’s 4th AgVocacy 2.0conference will be taking place. Unfortunately, I will not be joining them this year, timing on the farm just doesn’t work this year.

I have attended the last two years, as an attendee and as board member. The knowledge in the room is absolutely outstanding. You have AgVocates from across the country who have found success in telling their farm or ranch story on Facebook, Twitter, blogging, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+…just to name a few social media platforms.

The best part is they share their tips and tricks and the best ways they have found to accomplish their AgVocacy goals.

Here’s always my biggest takeaway:

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 that 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 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.

I hope the attendees go to AgVocacy 2.0 with an open mind.  Realize they don’t have to blog, tweet, facebook, instagram, YouTube, etc exactly like the presenters. But maybe take away a few tips and tricks and try them out.  See how it works for them and mold it to fit their AgVocacy style.

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

I will miss you all this year! Most importantly have fun AgVocacy 2.0 attendees! The “in-real-life” friends you make are priceless!

Marie Bowers

#TeamAgChat Fundraiser: June 24-28, 2013

This week AgChat Foundation is launching our 2nd annual individual giving campaign, and I hope you join me with a financial contribution to support our organization.  We need everyone to help make a difference, and it’s as simple as the click of a button.cowcomputer

Why is donating to Agchat Foundation a good investment?   I could talk about our weekly Twitter chats, and the opportunity to connect with so many people there.  I could talk about the way our national training conferences have inspired hundreds to share their passion for agriculture with a wider audience.  Or the growing number of regional and segment-specific programs we have, or new efforts like our Foodchat Facebook page.

However, what I’m going to share a bit here is my personal story.  The story of a farm kid (me just for clarity!) who has known nothing other than growing up on a farm, been here all my life, worked in town doing computer stuff for a few years and then came back to the farm when I got married.  I make no secret of the fact my personality type is pretty much a complete introvert, and I first became involved in online agvocacy because of my interest in data, and the various numbers we could look at in this effort.

From there, something clicked, and it has been quite a journey!  I’ve had the opportunity to get to know agriculture folks from across the nation.  I’ve observed the passion with which so many desire to share the modern agriculture miracle with a public which is farm removed and increasingly distrustful of today’s farmer.  And, I’m incredibly proud to be so involved in an organization dedicated to empowering farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms.

This year, one of the leading social media speakers in the country, Jay Baer, will be speaking at our national conference.  Anyone donating at $75 or higher will receive a copy of his latest book, “Youtility.”  For just a dollar a day ($365) your donation will sponsor an individual to our national training conference.  All of the details can be found here.

I hope that you can join me today with a donation to AgChat Foundation.  And, thank you to everyone that supports our mission, we could not do it without you!

Darin Grimm, AgChat Foundation President

AgChat Foundation Welcomes Four New Board Members


Heidi H. Nelson, Harvest PR

503-880-6313 /

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

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.

The Far-Reaching Legacy of @ITweetMeat

Michele Payn-Knoper, ACF Board Member

Voices come and go in today’s social world, some without notice. You could never say that about Chris Raines, perhaps most well-known as @itweetmeat (a handle that’s been held up as an example for many). His personality lived large online; his wit brought many smiles and his candor entertained hundreds.  We didn’t know him as Dr. Raines, we simply knew him as THE source of information about meat and his unwavering belief in having a well-rounded discussion based on science. Not everyone agreed with him, but Chris managed his conversations in a way that built relationships. As news of his shocking death spread through social media yesterday, those relationships became apparent on his Facebook page and through the #itweetmeat feed on Twitter.

Chris served as a member of the founding Board of Directors for the AgChat Foundation as a representative of Extension.  He wrote our first successful grant; the one that turned into support from Harvest PR, which resulted in the Foundation’s training being featured in food publications and advocates being featured in USA Today.  Chris was also a part of the Training Committee and helped build the learning assessments for the first training conference in Chicago and then provide program insight for ACFC11 in Nashville.  We asked him to be a part of the board because of his early adoption of social media, unique perspective and modern representation of Extension. We found much more than that in his voice that still lives large online.

Chris at the 2010 AgChat Foundation Conference

Sometimes that voice drove me nuts, especially when I was trying to chair virtual committee meetings and Chris was on the train in New York, sharing his travel highlights in the midst of our work. And we had many behind-the-scenes heated debates about exactly how to best have the conversation about farming and food. But at the end of those debates, we both knew that we wanted to accomplish a better conversation around agriculture- and that’s what mattered more than our personal opinions.  We both enjoyed beautiful pictures on international travel and goading each other once in awhile. One week before his death, I had the rare chance to see Chris while I was at Penn State for a speaking engagement. He texted me a “Welcome to SCE” when he saw the tweet that I had landed. We had dinner later that evening with colleagues from PennAg and MidAtlantic Dairy. I gave him a big hug when we greeted and we spent a part of dinner talking up the value of social media to our colleagues. Chris made us all laugh with his @itweetmeat stories as an academic. I’m fairly certain I said “See ya later” as we parted. I really wish I would have told him what a great job he does, how I enjoy his questioning and that his challenges make people think. Let that be a lesson for us all.

It seems so trivial to memorialize someone in a blog post. Yet Chris’ legacy is readily apparent in our social world and amongst the community that knew him virtually.  Jan Hoadley, a small farmer in Alabama, said “Chris had a means of getting people to think no matter how much they thought they knew – and challenged the why of the view without being insulting about it. He was an effective agvocate even with te difficult critics.  If I had a question, he was always open to it. I don’t know how he had the time sometimes, but it was definitely a model to follow.”  Amanda  Sollman, an agvocate from Michigan and now in Minnesota, points to Chris’ teaching skills, though she never sat in a class with him.  Many have written about Dr. Chris Raines.

College Mourns the Loss of Meat Scientist Chris Raines-Penn State College of Agriculture Sciences

Missing the Enthusiasm of Chris Raines, aka @iTweetMeat-Janice Person

Missing a Friend and a Great Teacher-Amanda Sollmana

The Good Die Young-Andy Vance

Reflections about Dr. Chris Raines from a Friend, Colleague and Follower-Amy Ridenour

Carpe diem, Before It is Too Late-Jesse Bussard

We’ll Miss You Chris Raines-Jan Hoadley

Social Media: Awesome and Devastating-Ryan Goodman

On tragedy: There is a reason why we just need to figure it out ourselves- Susan Crowell

In Memory of Dr. Chris Raines- Ulla Kjarval

We’ll simply leave it at this.  Thank you for your service, Chris. You will be sorely missed. There’s a huge community of sending out prayers for you and your family. And we hope you figure out how to tweet from heaven.

The AgChat Foundation is working with interested parties to create a memorial that reflects Dr. Raines’ commitment to engaging diverse communities in social media around the topic of food production. For more information or how to become involved please emails us at

Farmer Stereotypes — True or False?

Growing up I have noticed that there are several stereotypes about farms and the farmers that live on them.  Some of these stereotypes revolve around the idealistic view of a farm, others are formed by interactions that people have had with farmers. The problem with stereotypes is that they lump an entire group of individuals together. There are a lot of farmers in the United States, in fact according to the USDA there are over 2.2 million of us!  While we share a love of the land, crops and livestock, we are also a very diverse group of people. I’d bet you could compare every farm in the US and find several things that are unique on each farm that sets them apart from the rest.

I wanted to talk about one stereotype in particular. For some reason, farmers have a bit of a reputation for being hard-headed and stubborn.   In all my years and all the farmers that I have met, I have come to the realization that this stereotype in particular is for the most part accurate.  I myself find myself unwilling to change something just because a salesman or agronomist tells me their way is superior.  After all if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right?  On that note, if something is broke, I will use my ingenuity to figure a way to fix it. Being stubborn and hard-headed frequently helps us get through really tough situations. Looking around me here in Ohio and the farmers I’ve met across the Midwest and in fact the U.S., I have to say I’m not exactly an outlier. [Read more…]