AgChat Foundation Announces 2014 Cultivate & Connect Conference

It has been said that everything is bigger in Texas. The AgChat Foundation’s 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference to be held at the Radisson istockphoto-austin-city-skyline-at-night-crop-300wHotel & Suites in beautiful downtown Austin, Texas, August 21-22, 2014, will be no exception [registration link].

For the first time, our annual conference will include an open registration process which does not require participants to complete an application and receive an invitation to attend. Additionally, there will be no limit on the number of alumni attendees nor a limit on non-farmers and non-ranchers. It will be the best and biggest AgChat conference to date [registration link].

Who can attend?

Cultivate & Connect is open to all farmers, ranchers, growers, agribusiness people and agriculture educators from all walks of agriculture. Large, small, organic, conventional, urban, hobby? You are all invited to attend.

Why should you attend?

  • Expansive networking within the AgChat community
  • Connect with leading experts and your peers
  • Learn and share innovative and cutting edge ideas
  • The best of the best in Ag speakers
  • Cultivate & Connect brings together the latest in technology and the farmers and ranchers who are using it
  • An experience you will never forget

Main Sessions Include:Austin, Texas, The Live Country Music Capital of the World is the location of the 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference scheduled for Aug. 21-22, 2014.

  • What Chefs and Moms Really Say About the Food You are Growing
  • Does Community Engagement Work Offline and Why You Should Care
  • What is “Social Media Voice” and How Do You Find Yours?
  • Too little Time, Too Many Activities. Help Me!
  • Can You Build Your Community To Help Create Action?
  • 5 Questions You Need To Learn To Answer About Being A Farmer, Dealing With The Questions
  • Photo Walk About To Get The Pictures You Want

Keynote Speaker Thom Singer

Thom Singer keynote speaker for the Cultivate & Connect conference, Aug. 21-22, 2014.


Thom Singer is an engaging speaker who will cause you to explore creative ways to make, grow and keep your business relationships. Thom debunks the myths of networking and delivers actions items for success. He has authored ten books on the power of business relationships, networking, presentation skills and entrepreneurship, and regularly speaks to corporate, law firm and convention audiences. Participants will learn how to ‘lunch with strangers,’ ways to ignite deeper conversations, how to make deeper connections with consumers and meaningful relationships.


Call for Session Proposals

Share your story! How are you working differently? How are you making a difference? What approaches are you finding successful? How are you reaching new audiences? Are you connecting with youth? What tools or technologies are you using? How are your customers, followers, or audiences responding to your social media efforts? Compile and submit a proposal for a 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference session by clicking here. 

How do I register?

Exclusive registration for farmers and ranchers begins at 8amCT on Friday, March 7th. Registration for non-farmers and non-ranchers will begin at 8am CT on Friday, March 21st [registration link for all attendees].

Attend AgChat's 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference Aug. 21-22, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

How Do You Talk About That? Part I: GMO’s

A question we often receive from readers is “how do I talk about _____.” In an effort to answer this question we’ve created a series of posts to help you discuss tough topics like GMO’s, being a conventional farmer who farms non-GMO, farming organically and more. As an organization we do not focus on messaging however, with this series we are merely providing a platform so others can share their advice. We would love for YOU to also share in the comments your positive tips about talking GMO’s. ~Jenny Schweigert

5 Tips for Talking GMO’s

1. Don’t be Quick to Anger

This can apply to all agvocacy.  Many people you’ll interact with online may have very little if any first hand knowledge of what happens on How Do You Talk About GMO's on www.AgChat.organy kind of farm.  Everyone can’t know everything.  How much do you know about brain surgery?  Understand when starting a conversation that it really does help to feel out concerns of people versus laying out a lecture to tell them how things really are.

2. Explain Why You Employ Biotechnology

Every farm operation is different.  Be sure to explain to people why you choose to use a certain kind of seed on your farm.  Maybe a particular pest or weed has been a problem and Bt or herbicide tolerance has helped solve that issue.  Has biotech helped you become a more sustainable farm?  If your entire crop isn’t GMO you could explain why the whole operation doesn’t consist of biotech seed.

3. Bt Doesn’t Equal No Insecticide

Sometimes people who raise Bt crops tell others they don’t use any insecticide.  This is misleading since Bt is an insecticide.  There’s also a good chance the seed is treated with something like Poncho to combat pests.  Be honest and let consumers know you use pesticides, but you just may not spray them.  It’s also worth mentioning that because of Bt and seed treatments the need to fill a sprayer with fuel, water, and insecticide to apply an in-season insecticide is often not necessary.  Spraying also requires time, labor, and could cause soil compaction.

4.  Tool in the Toolbox

Biotechnology is a tool we use to address certain management issues.  It’s not the be-all, end-all answer to every agronomic choice.  Good agronomy transcends production practices, and people should know how biotech, conventional, and organic are similar.  All farms face pest, disease, weeds, and weather and everyone approaches those challenges in their own way.

5.  You Have a Choice

Let people know you can choose to buy seed from anywhere you please.  Anyone who has been a proponent of biotechnology for very long has surely encountered backlash claiming farmers are controlled by “Big Ag” seed companies who only create GMO crops to sell you their herbicides.  Another claim is that farmers must continue to buy seed from the same company.  But anyone who has ever bought GMO seed knows this isn’t true.  Sure there are some restrictions, but no one is stopping you from buying seed elsewhere.  In fact, nothing you’ve signed in a tech agreement says you must buy any kind of chemistry if you buy seed.  Let people know that once you purchase seed you are free to manage that seed as you see fit.

written by Brian Scott


Brian Scott blogs at

Brian Scott is a 4th generation corn, soybeans, popcorn and wheat farmer from Indiana. He is Purdue graduate who majored in Soil and Crop Management. For Brian the learning continues as his inner #AgNerd chases the progression of precision agriculture and is ready to take farming to new heights.  You can follow along with the happenings of Brian’s farm and #AgNerd adventures by visiting or on Twitter (@TheFarmersLife) and Facebook.

AgChat Foundation Announces 2014 Northwest Regional Agvocacy Conference

Join us for a one-of-a-kind experience in gorgeous downtown Portland, OR, January 30-31, 2014. This conference will tout a special AgChat Foundation's 2014 Northwest Regional Agovcacy Conferenceelement no other Agvocacy conference has seen, providing our attendees with the opportunity to explore food-focused businesses and connect with key food influencers.

You can also expect to learn how to identify your social media ‘voice,’ effectively reaching out to your audience, understanding essential components of the blogging process and looking at social analytics to determine what the numbers mean.

The conference will be held at the beautiful, downtown Crowne Plaza, an ideal home base for exploring the city’s cultural aspects with breathtaking views.

Tickets for the event are $100 for farmers and ranchers; $150 for agri-business professionals, AgEducators, etc… For additional information including registration and hotel accommodations, please visit our Eventbrite page.

Do you have a tough time talking about antibiotics?

Regardless of your opinion on antibiotic use, it tends to be a touchy topic to discuss. It is of upmost importance to have the ability to communicate our commitment in providing excellent care of our animals while also producing a safe food supply. This week we are putting antibiotic use in the spotlight to assist farmers and ranchers with creating a game plan for talking about the “A” word.

Our antibiotic coverage began last night as Executive Director, Emily Zweber led a dynamic #AgChat discussion where members of the community were free to get down to the nitty-gritty. The archive of the lively conversation will be posted soon. For now here is a small sample of the questions asked:

  • Q1: Via @KateGriswold : why/why don’t you use antibiotics on your farming operation? #agchat
  • Q8: Could we ever have a farm system that never uses antibiotics? #agchat
  • Q11: Has consumer pressures changed how you use antibiotics on your farm/ranch? #AgChat

These questions served as a starting point to spur a basic conversation about antibiotics. The information gained can now be utilized when those farmers and ranchers are talking about antibiotics with customers. Above all and again, regardless of your opinion, the more you know, the better prepared you are when explaining the different aspects of usage.

As we continue our week-long coverage of antibiotics, helping you be better prepared for those tough questions is our goal. We are thrilled to be featuring two different viewpoints on the subject beginning with Veterinarian Jen Trout, DVM. We will be following that post with the writing of pro-organic and pro-science farmer Rob Wallbridge from Both of these guest bloggers will share their perspectives and tips about how to talk about the “A” word.

Do you receive questions about antibiotics from you customers? If so, what are their main concerns?

This is the first in a series of blog posts about antibiotics and how farmers and ranchers should be discussing the issue while remaining respectful to all segments of Agriculture. The second part includes a veterinarian’s perspective from guest writer Dr. Jen Trout. We close with a piece which speaks to organics and antibiotic use entitled “Antibiotics and Organic Animal Care.”

written by Jenny Schweigert

5 Things I Learned About Blogging In One Year

One year ago . . .

As a passionate agvocate, I attended the 2012 AgChat conference (agricultural social media conference) in Kansas City. During the conference I truly was inspired by some of the top ag social media gurus. At the end of the conference, I told myself and others, “I want to blog!” But then reality started to hit. Can a person blog with absolutely no background in journalism or communications?  Well, with a bit of blind faith, mixed with a positive attitude and many questions asked, I started my blog – Minnesota Farm Living.  It’s been fun, Minnesota Farm Livingrewarding and I have not looked back.  I can now call myself a blogger and I don’t get that weird (like can I really say it?) feeling.

Here is my top 5 things I learned this past year about blogging:

1. It’s not easy and it takes a lot of time. I have heard and read that you should be able to write a blog in about an hour. Not even close for me. Granted, it probably would be easier and faster if I was an experienced writer, but it takes me a long time to write a blog. A lot of my time is spent thinking about better and more interesting ways to present the blogging material. Ideally, I split my blogging over a few days, which usually results in a better written blog.

The more difficult aspects about blogging for me are making sure my grammar is proper, selecting good blog topics and writing an appropriate and catchy blog title. In the past year, I have realized that blog titles are extremely important.  Blog titles are all readers have as their first impression of a blog and it does determine whether they click to read or pass over it. And all bloggers want their blogs to be read!

2. Practice makes perfect.  The more you write, the better you write. In fact, I cringe a little when I read some of my first blog posts.  I also learned this past year that you can’t proofread your blog enough. In fact, if you think it’s ready to publish, read it again and then read it one more time.

When I proofread my blog I am looking for grammar and spelling errors and also ways to write more clearly and concisely. There are times I will delete whole segments because it just didn’t add value to my blog.

Another item I have started to learn about over the past year is SEO – search engine optimization. SEO is a strategy that makes it easier for search engines to find your blog so it can display it on the search engine results page. Your ultimate goal is for your blog to be one of the top results of the search. One SEO strategy is to write good blog titles that include keywords and use those same keywords frequently in your blog. I also make sure my pictures’ file names are given a relevant name, in addition to a picture caption in the blog itself.

3. Content quality is king. I am continually learning and reading about what makes a blog successful and the one recurrent theme is to write quality content. Quality content provides value, such as giving information people may find useful or presenting content with a different viewpoint. I also include pictures in my blogs because they grab my readers’ attention. Many times pictures can add more to my blog’s content than words.

In addition to quality content, what values do I want to convey through my blog? Top on my list? Honesty, listening to others’ perspectives and to be open, even if it means embarrassing myself or feeling uncomfortable. Readers really do appreciate openness and candor. It helps make agriculture and farmers real in their eyes.

Most of my blog posts are about farming, family and living in rural Minnesota. Although, occasionally, I will write about something entirely different. And there is nothing wrong with that – readers appreciate the variety. And besides, it’s fun!

4. Making connections – that’s why they call it social media! Make connections with people within and outside your circle of interests. One of the challenges of agvocating is trying to reach people outside the “choir” (although reaching the choir is important too due to ag’s diversity). Recently, I have found some ways to start reaching people outside my circle. One way is to read other people’s blogs that may share non-ag interests you have. Examples of other interests may include food, fitness, nutrition or parental issues. Connections are made by reading and commenting on other blogs. And when people comment on your blog, be sure to respond back.  Responding to comments is one of my favorite parts about blogging!

Another suggestion for new bloggers is to find a seasoned blogger who is willing to mentor you.  I did have a mentor and she gave me great advice, as well as shared some of my blogs on her website.

5. Letting others know about your blog. One of the challenges in the first year of blogging is how to let others know that you have a blog post. Initially, I started posting my blog post on my Facebook page. But as time went on, I realized there are many other avenues for publicizing my posts.  In addition to Facebook, I now post to LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter (make sure you use hashtags and tweet multiple times at different times of the day or week), Google+, pertinent related Facebook pages, and Linky Parties (or blog hops).

Linky parties are blogs where the “host” allows bloggers to post their blog links for others to access. Hence the name, “linky party”. The sole purpose of linky parties is to help bloggers make connections with each other. Just make sure you read and follow the rules of the party. I like linky parties because it’s a good way to connect with people outside the “choir”.

It’s been a great first year! I have been surprised about who is reading my blogs, where my blogs have been posted and the people I have connected with over this past year. I will continue to read and listen and learn and blog. Here’s to another year of blogging!

written by Wanda Patsche of Minnesota Farm Living

Wanda Patsche



Wanda is a wife, mother and grandmother from south central Minnesota who farms with her husband, Chuck. They have 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren. In addition to their family, they raise hogs, corn and soybeans. With a passion for agriculture, Wanda is also a blogger talking about the topics most close to her heart – agriculture and living in rural Minnesota. Wanda’s main responsibilities are helping with the crops in both spring and fall, in addition to being responsible for the accounting functions on the farm.