AgChat National Collegiate Congress

***Registration is now OPEN! Please visit our new event site by clicking here.***

Indianapolis will host the National Collegiate Congress, a social media and agvocacy workshop scheduled for January 17, 2015 at Dow 2015 ACF Collegiate CongressAgroSciences’ headquarters, with an optional day of touring at Fair Oaks Farms on January 18. The training workshop aims to challenge passionate, agriculture, college-students from across the U.S. to expand their social media experiences and shorten the bridge between consumers and their food.

“Social media is always fun for learning about new ways to connect, but in the long run finding the right balance is what determines success,” says Lela Perez, a Texas A&M senior studying Animal Science. “I would try to inform those needing to connect with consumers of what to actually say, rather than just teaching them how.“

This event will focus on providing college students and new graduates with the tools to transform how they use both social media and in person interactions when engaging in agriculture and food conversations.

“I have been to many social media seminars, but most, if not every, teaches to an older audience. They come off as elementary to a person in my demographic that uses and grew up with social media,” says Clayton Glazik, a University of Illinois senior studying Agricultural Communications and Advertising. “It’s refreshing to find a conference focusing on agriculture advocacy geared to my age group.”

“The collegiate demographic is an integral part of the agriculture industry. They are firmly tied to digital connections and when compared to all other demographics, are leading the way in social media. It is only natural that the AgChat Foundation offer an inaugural event targeting college, agriculture students across the U.S.,” replied AgChat Foundation’s Executive Director Jenny Schweigert. “Our training will focus on translating their current social media experiences to an understanding of how to tell agriculture’s story. Essentially, we are taking a proactive approach by fostering the future of the agvocacy community while connecting partners with the best and brightest recruits.”

With support from Dow AgroSciences, National FFA and Animal Agriculture Alliance, the National Collegiate Congress will bring together 165 students to learn about extending their abilities to connecting with consumers.

The event will include sessions on what consumers see and hear, how social media can be improved to tell a story when you are living on campus and away from the farm, how to use blogging, and what it means to make a consumer connection, both on and offline. Attendees can expect a strong focus on networking with other students and exchanging ideas on how to connect with fellow non-agriculture students on their campuses.

In addition, students will learn more about connecting agriculture to consumers through an optional tour of Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana. The tour is scheduled for Sunday, January 18 and will include the dairy adventure, pig adventure and the cheese and yogurt factory. Lunch is included at the Cheese Factory Cafe, which offers soups, grilled cheese sandwiches made with Fair Oaks cheese, and Fair Oaks ice cream. The tour will provide a hands-on look at how Fair Oaks creates unique visibility of dairy and pork farming.

If you would like additional information about the AgChat Foundation or to schedule an interview, contact Jenny Schweigert execdir at agchat dot 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

Voting For Sessions at the 2014 Cultivate & Connect Conference

Pitch Your Session VoteWhich Three Do You Want To See? Below are the top session pitches that are now out for public vote. The top three vote getters will be presented at the AgChat Cultivate & Connect conference in Austin, Tx, August 21-22, 2014.

Voting ends 5pm ET April 23 [vote link].

Meeting Consumers Where They Already Are
Jennifer Barnett Fox and Bethany Asbell

At, the consumer-facing website for the Center for Food Integrity, our commerce is information about food. As consumers ourselves, we have an incredible opportunity to meet other consumers in digital spaces. We’re already in these areas and meet consumers there, but we know in order to create a lasting connection, we need to zero in on what consumers already find interesting about food and meet them on these topics before we try to tackle “big” issues and misperceptions.

In response to this situation, the online community managers (OCMs) at Best Food Facts created a strategy that focuses on consumer friendly conversation to engage key food influencers. Two examples of tactics that support this strategy are as follows.

The Eating Well series focuses on the beauty and fun of food: the recipes, photography and nutrition. The platform features foodie friendly, sharable images and educational blog posts on trending food topics consumers and food influencers are already discussing such as cauliflower.

The Bloggers We Love series spotlights popular food blogs by foodie influencers. Highlighting food influencers provides the opportunity to either begin or continue building relationships with those influencers as well as encourage them to share Best Food Facts with their audience.

These approaches allow the OCMs to “meet” consumers in the very places and on the very topics they are already having conversations about. Each tactic enables a touch point that builds trust and presents a future opportunity to connect on bigger issues. This strategy has increased Twitter followers and Facebook likes, influencer engagement and website visits as well as constructive conversation around food.

In the Ag Chat session, the OCMs will elaborate on this strategy and show attendees how they might use a similar strategy to accomplish their goals.

Two Tongues: Bridging the Urban/Rural Divide Through Social Media
Alison Kosakowski Conant

Ag has an image problem, and a lot of it has to do with demographics and cultural differences. Today, less than 2% of Americans make a living farming or ranching. Worse still, most don’t see agriculture firsthand in their communities, as 81% of Americans live in areas that are defined as urban or suburban. The cultural norms of city verse country life are vastly different, and create challenges in our industry’s attempts to break through to mainstream consumers.

For us to be truly effective ag communicators, we need to acknowledge that the need urban/rural divide and become “fluent” in both urban/suburban AND rural. This presentation will delve into the real, and sometimes humorous, ways urban and rural life differ (one is not better than the other, they’re just different!) and explore the opportunities for social media to bridge this divide and create meaningful engagement. The first rule of effective communication is: put yourself in your listener’s shoes.

This presentation will discuss how we can use social media to “listen” and better understand differing points of view, in an effort to meet consumers “where they are at” and create a more positive dialogue.

Cultivating Engagement among Farmers, Ranchers, and Consumers through Social Media Collaborations between Agriculturists and Home Economists
Lindsay Chichester

Wayne Gretzky, noted hockey player, said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” With 72% of online adults using social networking sites, social media should be a playing field for us (Brenner & Smith, 2013). Following the food trail from producer to plate, our team of University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension Educators is comprised of both agriculturalists and home economists.

Together, youth and adults are engaged through Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn, and SlideShare. By offering a more diverse selection of content through collaboration, we have markedly expanded the number of contacts we could have ever made individually. Information shared and provided has included but is not limited to climatic concerns, plant disease identification, youth crop activities and education, meat labeling claims, antibiotic resistance, healthy recipe ideas, food safety, and much more. Cross promoting brings in larger and new audiences since 100% of the population eats!

CASE STUDY ONE: One of the home economists reblogged an article from one of the agriculturists (who specializes in meat) on types of animal feeding practices and their effect on meat the consumer purchases. In turn, this article was shared via blog to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by both persons.

CASE STUDY TWO: In a study of leading brands on Pinterest, (Unmetric Pindustry Report, 2013) the categories with the most repins were home [2 million], recipes [1.7 million], and food [695,000]. Capitalizing on this interest in food, an agriculturist on our team has included recipes in her blog and initiated a shared Pinterest board on “Food and Agriculture Blogs” with other agriculturalists and home economists. All add to the board, and it by seen by multiple audiences. Together this team reaches over 11,000 persons on all social media sites!

Reaching Out and Thinking Through
Janice Person and Ellen Malloy

Polarization has become far too common in the the discussion of food and farm. How can two seemingly widely different perspectives move closer to each other? It takes real communications, a willingness to listen to different opinions.

Chicago foodie Ellen Malloy & Monsanto’s Janice Person had a long way to go to find common ground. What did they learn through the process that can help others in the social media space talking about food & agriculture? That’s the topic of discussion in this session.

Personalizing Agriculture in Our Community: Faces, Farms & Food
Meaghan Huffman

Agriculture is thriving on public and private lands in Boulder County, Colorado, despite its location along the increasingly urbanized Front Range. Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) owns and manages 25,000 acres of agricultural lands, leased to 80 farmers and ranchers. The juxtaposition of agriculture with an urban environment provides the opportunity to address a lack of consumer knowledge.

During a politically charged Cropland Policy process in 2010, BCPOS saw the first-hand lack of public understanding about local food production by farmers and ranchers on public lands. To start our agriculture education program, we began hosting farm bus tours on our open space agriculture lands, starting with one bus of 50 participants, and expanding up to 200 participants per tour. When people are able to meet the farmers, hear them speak about their family farms and see their passion for what they do and the land they make a living from, we see a change in public perception of agriculture. As our program grows we realize that not everyone is able to attend bus tour, so we decided to reach out through our website and social media.

Our audiences have ranged from school aged children to senior citizens. We have created a YouTube Channel displaying videos that document crop harvests (over 32,000 views), developed an online harvest map (Version 2 going live this summer), shared farmer profiles on our website and created “Local Food Loops” to share the story from field to plate. We also joined Twitter and are continuously finding new ways to engage our audiences. We tweet photos and quotes while on our public farm tours, share information on upcoming agriculture events and, tweet photos and current happenings on the farms. BCPOS continually works to find new and innovative ways to engage our community in agriculture.

Traditional Storytelling in a Digital World
Earl Lundquist and Lindsey Pope

Since the beginning of time, knowledge and history have been passed down through the art of storytelling. Few things in life are as good as listening to a great story, like one you may hear as a compelling life tale from a hard-working Texas farmer or rancher. At the Texas Department of Agriculture, we utilize social media channels to tell great stories, and connect urban and rural Texans. We work hard to engage and empower our followers by making them a part of our story.

Communities are built by cultivating relationships. We’ve used this approach to create viral videos, double our Facebook community, triple our Twitter following, and greatly increase the number of women and international members within our online ag communities. Take our social media campaign for our most recent Family Land Heritage ceremony as an example. Through our storytelling, we were able to honor the legacies of our farmers and ranchers, while also bringing a larger audience along for the ride, even if they were not physically present. This strategy has proven itself to be a great success in engaging our community. We tell stories to share the amazing work done by TDA and the farmers and ranchers who call Texas home. We also use stories to share how technology and science play a critical role in feeding a growing population.

At TDA, we combine one of the oldest art forms — storytelling — with the latest social media tools to share our mission and the rich tradition of farming and ranching in Texas.

Mirrors, Windshields & Agriculture – (Visual Storytelling)
Jan Hoadley

This looks at telling the story of agriculture from a visual standpoint. Why storytelling, why visual and the how of visual are brought forth, with tips under each section. We’re familiar with windshields as a means of looking where we’re going – the mirrors are the perspective of what we see, what is behind us and what the consumer sees.

How to effectively bring those together using “old fashion storytelling” along with photos and/or video is the focus of this session. Visual increases engagement and reduces perception issues (after all that warning of things are closer than they seem isn’t just for mirrors!).

Turn off Your Tech, Rest Your Thumbs!
Lorna Wilson

In today’s fast social media driven society, we appear to be losing the all important face-to-face method of networking which can provide information unavailable through our tech-devices. The power to connect and get your message out there is stronger and credibility is increased when there is a personal connection.

Renew your person-to-person meeting skills at this fun interactive session, while learning how to blend the traditional style of networking with current technology. First time attendees as well as alumni are encouraged to attend this session where new and vital contacts will be fostered.

Voting ends 5pm ET April 23 [vote link].

Take the 2014 Farmer Challenge – #2014FarmerChallenge

Oregon farmer and alumnus of ACF’s 2014 Northwest Regional Agvocacy conference, Brenda Frketich has taken a good friend’s challenge and ran with it. Fellow farmer Dan Worley, also of Oregon, put the video below on Facebook yesterday asking farmers and ranchers to take a few minutes to share what they do during the day.

2014 Farmer Challenge via

Frketich not only met her friend’s challenge, she and have teamed up to put all of your videos in one place. We echo their efforts and encourage you all to make your own video simply showing a bit about your day on the farm or ranch. Be sure to visit to view other’s videos including Frketich’s.

So, we do wonder, would these be called #FarmerVelfies?

Ready, set, VIDEO!

Keep celebrating 365 days a year

The agriculture community has pulled out all of the stop during this year’s National Ag Day & week! As the celebration continues we’d like to share some of the fantastic blog posts we’ve seen this week. How will you keep celebrating 365 days a year?

Have you written a blog post about National Ag Day or Week? Send a link to or comment below.

Happy Agriculture!!