Inspiration comes from innovation: the ripple effect

This week AgChat Foundation is celebrating the 5th Anniversary for the #AgChat & #FoodChat Twitter conversations & the 4th Anniversary for the foundation. Join us on April 8th, 8-10pmET on Twitter for a special anniversary chat discussing what is needed in social media for agriculture!

Airplanes are thinking time to me. That means January thru March involves a lot of brain time as I fly between

Flying - Jenny Schweigert The Magic FarmHouse.comspeaking engagements. Five winters ago, a recurring thought continued to gnaw at me; social media offered an opportunity for agriculture to work together and to reach people interested in food. At the time, I had been on Facebook and Twitter since mid-2008, blogged for a couple of years, and been active in other channels. My original purpose in being a part of social media was to inform, inspire and incite conversations around farm and food – and that purpose remains the same today. 

Like many, I thought Twitter was stupid for the first several months. Then in January 2009, I started tweeting out food facts on a regular basis – and the day when one of those was picked up by mainstream media – I decided perhaps the Twitterverse may actually have value. About the same time, I started participating in #Journchat, a weekly chat for journalists.

My experience in watching that conversation provoked my thinking that maybe Twitter was a tool to draw agriculture together, while also taking the ag message beyond the choir.  After all, I had preached for years in my trainings that agriculture needed to work together and get our stories into mainstream. It’s important to practice what I preach, so when travel season slowed down, I threw the idea out on Twitter about #AgChat and #FoodChat on Twitter the first week of April 2009 – let’s get together for a couple of hours on Tuesday night.  Aside from reaching out to ag folks I knew on Twitter, there was no great campaign or strategy behind starting the first #AgChat on April 8, 2009. It was simply an idea in a land of pioneers. I honestly thought it might get shot down pretty quickly, but I live by a life philosophy of “no risk, no reward.”

There was a fair amount of behind-the-scenes minutia, such as setting up a Twitter account, messaging my network to get the word out, identifying the right time and figuring how to best promote the growing chat – particularly in the food world. It was important it wasn’t just chatter, so I approached it the same way I facilitate meetings. There would be a moderator to help guide the chat participants would contribute and professional behavior was expected.

The first chat made it pretty clear that the pioneers wanted to talk about how to speak out for agriculture, so I started asking people to DM questions for the conversation. Then, for a long time, I was tied to my office every Tuesday night 8-10 p.m., E.T., moderating the fast-paced chat. To this day, I believe the community participation drives ownership and the growth of the cause. However, I also see egos infringe upon that philosophy from time to time, but dedicated leaders continue to focus on the people served – and the bigger cause of connecting people around the plate.

While I moderated all of the chats in the early days, travel necessitated guest moderators, many of whom served on the founding board for the AgChat Foundation. As the chat grew, the pundits did as well. The consistently facilitated structure of #AgChat/#Foodchat unquestionably served to keep the weekly conversations civil. As the chats grew and gained a lot of visibility, I was accused of being paid by corporations, had my personal integrity questioned and learned to let names like “paid prostitute” slide.

The community consistently stepped up to defend those who were trying to add depth to agriculture’s voice and it became apparent we needed to facilitate the “town hall” concept as much as we could. There was also the reality that I couldn’t handle everything myself. Many of the #AgChat/#Foodchat pioneers volunteered to moderate, invite people, track data, archive the conversations, get media coverage – and they were amazingly effective (they know who they were – and I’m afraid of missing someone, so am not listing any names). There’s no doubt it took a village! Ideas flowed, our community connected in other ways, campaigns around activist claims were executed and mainstream media was fascinated that farmers used technology.

Ideas of what to do with #AgChat and #FoodChat’s engaged community came from across the U.S. and Canada. Early social media acquaintances became collaborators with longtime friends from across North America. My greatest concern was how to keep the community going regardless of the change in social platforms – and ensure it remained for the good of the cause.

Companies and agencies offered money to have their name attached to the effort, but no dollars were accepted so that it could be truly grassroots. It became easier to get the food circles involved in #Foodchat and we had a variety of special guests. Eventually a group of us came together to form the AgChat Foundation, which would be launched on the first year anniversary of #AgChat. The Foundation has trained hundreds of new “agvocates”, raised substantial money to help farmers and ranchers, hired staff to keep the details in order and started managing the weekly chats two years ago (unfortunately, I rarely get to moderate or participate due to my schedule).

Does AgChat provide all the answers to agriculture’s problems? No. Does agriculture still struggle with working together and going beyond the choir? Yes. Has #AgChat/#FoodChat, and subsequently the AgChat Foundation, facilitated the conversation to bring those groups closer together? Absolutely. Is there only one way to tell our story and can it only be done through social media? Not a chance. Do we have more to do? Every day.

I stand in awe of the people in our community and the leaders who serve them. For example, each of the 35 contributors in my first book No More Food Fights!  is a relationship established through this community. However, my admiration goes beyond just the early adopters, many of whom have become wonderful friends.

The first annual AgChat Foundation Agvocacy conference held in 2010.

Last year’s national conference brought together a roomful of people two or three degree degrees removed from the founding board of the AgChat Foundation, which I believe clearly illustrates how the community has made an impact. I have been quietly inspired by watching many of them sharing their farm story and bring others to the plate to do the same.

The ripple effect is in action and continues to touch new people daily. Little did I know the reach and breadth of an idea started five years ago, but I am thankful for the inspiration this community continues to provide around the farm and food conversation. As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of #AgChat and #FoodChat, I also have to ask… what’s next? Food for thought on the next airplane…or tractor ride. May the innovation continue!

Happy 5th Anniversary #AgChat/#FoodChat!!

written by Michele Payn-Knoper, CSP


michele-payn-knoper-251x300Whether armed with a facilitator’s hat, a cow halter or boxing gloves by her microphone, Michele Payn-Knoper is known for her agricultural advocacy work as the principal of Cause Matters Corp. Her family’s small farm in central Indiana includes registered Holsteins descending from a heifer she purchased at the age of 12. She works internationally to build connections between the farm gate and consumer plate as a Certified Speaking Professional and writer, inspiring others to agvocate. “Social media once seemed like a silly fad, but I’ve learned the power of a community transcends the tool – as proven by this Foundation.”

Top 10 AgBlog Posts of 2013

From response to the Chipotle & Panera situations, talking about GMOs, dishing on farm marriages, taking on TV doctors, grabbing ourTop 10 AgBlog Posts of 2013 attention about issues such as lack of youth in agriculture and more, AgBloggers sent out phenomenal blog post material during 2013. You took hold of these issues and wrote about your stories and life on the farm and ranch.

Ram Trucks certainly predicted the year correctly in that AgBlog Posts caught the attention of the media like never before. In an effort to recap some of the best of the best we asked for your nominations for the Top 10 AgBlog Posts of 2013. We had a tremendous response with over 30 blog post nominations.

What a great list of AgBlog Posts! Be sure to follow along here, Facebook or Twitter from now until New Year’s Day as we announce the Top 10 AgBlog Posts of 2013. Congratulations and thank you to all of the nominees!


Submit Your Favorite Farmer & Rancher Blog Posts!!

Its hard to believe we are nearing the end of 2013! I know I’ve said it before but the agriculture community isRyan Goodman received first place in the 2012 Top Ag Blogs  continually amazing me. The blog posts from 2013 are no exception-the number of ag blog posts which went viral this year is huge.

We are out to find the best of the best and will finish the year by highlighting Ag’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013. Today marks the opening of nominations for a spot in the Top 10 so grab your favorites and get them submitted.

Here’s what you need to do:

1.) Submit your favorite blog posts by emailing Include #AgBlog10 in the subject line along with the full permalink to the blog post you are nominating. Blog posts may be ones which you have written or written by others. If you have a brief moment to tell us why you think the blog post should be in the Top 10, please do so but it is not required.

2.) If you are on Twitter, send out a Tweet with the permalink and the hashtag #AgBlog10. If you are on Instagram take a screenshot of the blog post, uploaded and tag it with the hashtag #AgBlog10.

How it works:

Submissions will be accepted until Fri., Dec. 13th. Beginning Fri., Dec. 13th, a screenshot of each blog will be posted in the AgBlog10 Photo Album on the AgChat Foundation Facebook page. Members of the community will then show their support for their favorite posts by first liking the ACF Facebook page (required by Facebook) and then liking the photo. Votes will be accepted until Fri., Dec. 20th.

Ag’s Top 10 Best Blog Posts will be revealed and then highlighted on ACF’s social media channels Dec. 25th-Jan. 1st. Good luck everyone!


We are looking for posts which connect a community either in the ag industry or with consumers/customers. In addition, blogs posts should exhibit great story telling skills which connect consumers/customers from field-to-fork.

Ready, set, go!

If you have additional questions, please contact Jenny at

written by Jenny Schweigert

#Harvest Pinterest Board

The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny. ~ James Allen

Depending on the year, harvest is a wonderful time. Whether your experiencing a good or bad season, usually it induces a feeling of accomplishment. To Share Your Photos on the AgChat Foundation Pinterest Boardcelebrate your accomplishments, hard work and time we want to highlight your harvest experiences in pictures. A Pinterest board labeled Harvest has been created and is awaiting your pins. All you need to do is follow the board and then you’ll be invited to contribute. Easy as pumpkin pie! Don’t have a Pinterest account? Check out these easy instructions to help you on your way.

Why Should I Contribute to the Harvest Board?

  1. Exposure to your blog
  2. Be highlighted on the website! Pin your photos before Oct. 4th and you’ll have a chance to be one of five people who’s photos will be published on the website  on or around Oct. 11th.
  3. The top five photos will also be highlighted on the AgChat Foundation’s Facebook page.
  4. Its intriguing to see how others are harvesting their crops.
  5. Did I mention exposure?

What kind of harvesting do you want to see?

  1. Any and all. Whether its apples, soybeans, green beans, corn, wheat/straw, potatoes, grapes, etc… we’d love to see them!

If you have any questions, contact Jenny at

Announcing ACF Upper Midwest Regional Conf. – Feb. 23, 2013


by Carrie Mess

For the last two years, towards the end of August, I have packed up my cow print suitcase, a bunch of cheese, my husband and hopped a plane bound towards the city that was hosting one of the greatest groups of people that I know, the people of AgChat. For three years now, (I missed the first one) the Agchat Foundation has hosted a conference aimed to teach farmers and other agriculture professionals how to use social media as a tool to reconnect people to their food. Each year there are more people that apply than what the conference can hold and many more that never apply because the location is too far or the timing isn’t right. Taking all of that into consideration and pairing it with the foundation’s goal to reach as many people as we can, the idea to hold regional conferences was born.

Thanks to a partnership with the Minnesota Corn Growers and the Minnesota Farm Bureau, the Agchat Foundation is excited to announce that the first regional Agchat conference will be held Saturday, February 23rd at the DoubleTree Hotel in Rochester, Minnesota!

So why should you plan on attending?

Well first of all, us Mid-Westerners know that by the time the end of February rolls around we are all desperate for just about anything that will get us out of the house. The regional training committee was certain to book a hotel with many modern conveniences such as heat and unfrozen water lines. A luxury for many of us that will be battling the elements all winter. And if you are uncertain that even the heat of a forced air furnace cranked all the way up to high is enough to warm you up, we are certain that a full day of learning about how YOU can use the internet to change opinions, educate and connect with people from all walks of life will light a spark for agvocacy inside of you that will defrost even the most frozen among us. And the friendships and connections you will make learning with your fellow agvocates? That’s like the marshmallows on the hot cocoa, the best part!

So what’s different at the regional conference from ACFC 2.0?

  • The regional conference is held in one day. This allows folks who aren’t able to get away from the farm for the full time of ACFC 2.0 to still come and learn.
  • Because we have so much ground to cover in one day the regional conference’s schedule is designed with many breakout sessions that allow you to pick what areas of social media you are most interested in and focus on those topics. This is in addition to our opening and closing sessions that everyone will benefit from.
  • Our regional conference is the on-ramp for people who really want to be part of the agvocacy action online but don’t know where to start or have a foothold in one or two areas of social media but want to explore other venues of conversation and improve the skills they already have.
  • The regional conference is open to people from anywhere, however with the location it is going to draw folks in driving distance of Rochester. This means you will be learning with your neighbors and friends, in fact you should probably forward this link to them right now!

So it’s time to get fired up about agvocacy and make your plans to attend the very first AgChat Foundation regional conference! Leave the long underwear at home because it’s sure to be a hot time in Rochester!

Farmers & ranchers, visit our Eventbrite page to register beginning Fri., Nov. 9th!

Carrie Mess is a city girl turned Wisconsin Dairy farmer. Her interest in sharing her story turned into a love for AgVocating. You can follow The Adventures of Dairy Carrie on her blog, facebook or @dairycarrie on twitter.