I’ve felt so alone in agvocacy

The AgChat Foundation has now held conferences in Chicago, Nashville, Kansas City, Charlotte, NC, Portland, OR, Austin and most recently Spokane, WA. The greatness of these events can be attributed to fabulous keynote speakers such as Bruce Vincent, sessions from basic Twitter to relationship building to conflict management, tours of grocers such as Whole Foods and wheat mills and finally, the ever popular, interactive consumer panels. Above all, it is the networking and attendees which put our conferences in the excellence category. I’d like to share a reflection following the recent 2015 Pacific Northwest Agvocacy conference.

There is no argument about the disconnect between consumers and their food. It clearly exists for AgChat Foundation's 2015  Pacific Northwest Agvocacy Conferenceeveryone. One observation which became evident is that the intensity of the disconnect varies greatly from region to region in the U.S. The pacific northwest is a prime example. There are stringent battle lines which have been drawn, by consumers several generations removed from the farm as well as farmers and ranchers who are fighting for their legacies. Couple those lines with the challenges faced by governmental land management and sharing your story of farming or ranching might look like an up-hill ride.

The issues which exist in the pacific northwest are vast and agriculture is extremely diverse. Bringing growers together allowed for stressors to be shared rather than held up by one person. As we all networked and chatted during the PNW event, there was a similar message that was heard multiple times.

“I’m so glad I connected with you. I’ve felt so alone.”

In that short two-day event, the relationships which were formed are providing inspiration and collaborations. Attendees now have a reachable mentoring group who can relate to the challenges they face in telling their stories of farming and ranching. Witnessing these conversations was a reminder of why the AgChat Foundation exists. It serves as a connecting point for agvocates to share and support one another. To ask for or provide advice. It is also a reminder that even if you haven’t attended an event yet, there are other opportunities to connect with other agvocates. You are not alone. I challenge you to reach out to at least one of these channels this week and share with friends and family who are also agvocating:

We sincerely hope that the event provided the desired conduit to connect all of the attendees who are advocating for agriculture in the pacific northwest and beyond. You are the AgChat Foundation and the resources and network are at your finger tips.

NEW #AgBlog post from Success is Reason Enough | #AgChatPNW

Posted by Blogging for Agriculture on Tuesday, April 28, 2015



Jenny serves as the AgChat Foundation Executive Director while helping manage her family’s Jenny Schweigert - AgChat.org photo courtesy of Keiser Photography https://www.facebook.com/KeiserPhotographysmall hobby farm and jumping in when possible on her in-laws farm in central Illinois. In addition to AgChat.org, she can be found blogging at TheMagicFarmHouse where she shares about life on their farm while connecting with boy moms, food allergy parents, hunters and more. She loves deer hunting and avoids housekeeping when possible. You can connect with her on Facebook or tweet her on Twitter.

Powerful Voices Set Tone for ACF’s PNW Agvocacy Conference

In the news…

The AgChat Foundation will host the 2nd Annual Pacific Northwest Regional Agvocacy conference at 2014 Northwest Agvocacy Conference - learn more about the 2015 event at www.AgChat.org/PNWNorthern Quest Resort and Casino in Spokane, WA, April 27-28. Attendees who register before March 20th will receive an early bird discount. The Foundation, known for providing high-quality, agriculture advocacy training to farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals, media and educators, will once again deliver a selection of sessions focusing on strengthening online relationships while fostering offline communications with consumers.

The conference will open with motivational keynote speaker, mom and North Dakota agvocate, Katie Pinke. A household name for bridging common ground in even the most difficult conversations, Pinke will share her experiences, purpose, insight and set a tone for understanding on all sides of the kitchen table.

Attendees can expect to learn about tips, strategies and hacks for efficient advocating and utilizing community to share their farm and ranch stories via Instagram and Pinterest. Emphasis will be placed on building communication when interacting with detractors or facing crisis situations. Additionally, they will be provided hands-on training for blogging, Twitter and other social media platforms. The event will offer the experience to network with fellow farmers, ranchers, mentors and advocates while also interacting with a consumer panel.

2014 Northwest Agvocacy Conference - learn more about the 2015 event at www.AgChat.org/PNWThe event will provide the tools which will equip all to advocate for agriculture. Keynote speaker Michele Payn-Knoper, ACF board member and author of ‘No More Food Fights,’ will close by inspiring and infusing the audience with a passion for telling the story of agriculture.

“Farmers and ranchers in the pacific northwest and all across the U.S., have a unique story to tell and we are the only ones who can tell it accurately and authentically. Attending an AgChat Foundation event will provide purpose, tools and a network for successfully communicating with consumers,” says AgChat Foundation Vice-President, Marie Bowers of Harrisburg, OR.

A complete schedule of events is available at AgChat.org/PNW and AgChatPNW.Eventbrite.com

Sponsorship opportunities will be available until mid-March. Inquiries should be sent to Jenny Schweigert, Executive Director by emailing execdir@agchat.org.

30 Days: People You Need to Connect with on Twitter

30 Days: People You Need to Connect with on TwitterBe Connected We are catching things up after giving thanks for the food on our plates and celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family. Earlier in our series I had mentioned a list of non-ag people who I highly recommend connecting with on Twitter. Do remember that this list is heavy on mom related bloggers because I’m a mom and that is where I make the most connections. However, there are several who go beyond blogging about motherhood. Rather than focusing on only non-ag folks, I’ve also added people who either live or work in the agriculture industry. Fasten your seat belts because here we go…

People On Twitter For You [list created on Twitter for ease of use]

  • @SocialSarab (aka @TravelwithSara )
  • @ChowandChatter
  • @CityChicOnAFarm
  • @5minutesformom
  • @WomanlyWoman
  • @MotherUnadorned
  • @GotChocoMilk
  • @ABloggyMom
  • @AimeeWhetstine
  • @MommieAgain
  • @BruceSallan
  • @SocialMoms
  • @nuckingfutsmama
  • @lcphotooftheday
  • @WritRams
  • @ThisLilParent (podcaster)
  • @SITSGirls
  • @StockPilingMoms
  • @EmpowHER
  • @MelAJennings
  • @Seeds4Parents
  • @TodaysMoms
  • @RuralMoms
  • @GirlGoneMom
  • @CafeSMom
  • @ResourcefulMom (founder of Twitter parties)
  • @247Moms
  • @7OnAShoeString
  • @4HatsandFrugal
  • @JeniEats
  • @DebWorks
  • @SharontheMoment
  • @FoodieChats
  • @Outdoorsy_Diva
  • @LeahMcGrathRD
  • @MomSpark
  • @NotQuiteSusie
  • @BrwnSugarToast

Ag Friends list [list created on Twitter for ease of use]

  • @KatPinke
  • @MNGobbleGal
  • @TruffleMedia
  • @SwineCast
  • @PaintTheTownAg
  • @Arkansas
  • @JodiOleen
  • @FoodInsight
  • @Westacre2CJ
  • @MinnFarmer
  • @AgWithDrLindsay
  • @Renderers
  • @jmheim33
  • @ISU_Farm_Energy
  • @HollySpangler
  • @KDGilkey
  • @CoopedUpCreativ
  • @WifeOfADairyMan
  • @BeyerBeware
  • @AnnaWastell
  • @milkmaid58

Who do you follow?


30 Days: How do people find you on the internet when they don’t even know you exist?

Of course, the answer is via Search Engines (which is really just Google) or via Social Media.

When it comes to being found, you should think of Google as your home page – not your blog’s home page. Because if someone doesn’t know you they aren’t going to search for you – they are searching for what they want to know about which is hopefully what you are writing about.

i.e. They are looking for answers – maybe they hear something about pus in cow’s milk. You, as a dairy farmer, are an expert in cow’s milk. If you write about it then hopefully they will find it.

Google Search Engine Results Page


But that doesn’t mean that just because you wrote down what you know or maybe did a little video about it that Google will magically put you at the top of the topic you are taking about.

In fact, there are over 200 different factors that Google has in its algorithm to determine who makes it to the top of their search page called SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

So how do you know what topics you rank for right now?

You need Google Webmaster Tools installed on your website or blog.

Search Queries that lead to people finding your website


Once in Webmaster Tools, you can see a lot of information about your website – what you are ranking for, what impressions you have, what missing pages or broken links you have, etc… This tool is a must if you plan on understanding anything about your website and SEO. So go install it now and then come back. I’ll wait. Seriously.

Once you have your webmaster tools installed (you did it, right?). Don’t just cheat and keep reading. Let’s talk about SEO.

First, what is SEO?

Well, according to the guys at Moz who rock at SEO, they say that SEO or Search Engine Optimization “is the practice of improving and promoting a website in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.”

I will try to simplify it by saying doing SEO is like learning the search engine language. You speak English or Spanish or whatever to the people around you and they understand what you are saying. You need to do the same thing for Google. SEO is Google’s language and the better you are at speaking to Google, the higher your chances are for showing up at the top of their SERP.

BTW, does it matter if you are on the first page of a search term?


If you are on Page 2 then you might as well be non-existent. The first page means everything – very, very few people move past the first page.

The search query is a term within SEO you should be familiar with. This is what people type or speak into the search box.

Now search queries have changed over the years – it used to be that people only used a few words when typing into Google. But now, people speak or type entire sentences and they revise a lot when they aren’t getting the results they want.


You may have noticed that Google uses Autocomplete to try and guess what people are looking for – and they are getting very smart and accurate about these search queries. They will present you a list of 3 or 4 options as you go along and try to lead you in your search pursuits.

Blogging tip – write blog posts based on other people’s search queries and you could find yourself getting more traffic.

So those websites that show up at the top of the search queries on SERPs, how do they get there? How is Google ranking these websites?

Well, there are a lot of factors and Google gives you a high level explanation of search on this website.


But I would say there are just a few things you should worry about.

Google loves relevancy and popularity combined with your location. Pretty simple, huh?

Actually, it’s a lot more complex and if you want to see how the SEO experts break it down, you can check out the Search Engine Ranking Factors from moz.org.

But here’s how I would define.

Relevancy – means how much you talk about your topic.

Popularity – means you have a lot of links to your website from outside sources that say you are a trusted source for this topic. It also means more likes and shares from popular social networks (Google+ is the highest so that can help you decide whether you need to be using that ghost town of a network) and the power of the pages that are linking to you.

With popularity, there are also negative things to consider and that might work against you. If you add lots of videos (not embedded from YouTube – those don’t count) and images on the page causing it to load slow that could be a problem.  Or if you have links coming from websites that are known to be spam or maybe you have URLs with a lot of numbers and your URLs are very long. Google has issues with these things.

Location – the closer you are to the person searching, the better chance you have to coming up. This works really well for local shops and restaurants.

So this is a lot of stuff and you probably don’t have a lot of time to learn a lot of new stuff and do a lot of new stuff. It’s hard enough just coming up with new content so I’ve made a quick and dirty list of SEO things that you should know.

How to do SEO for yourself quickly.

1. Don’t DIY your website. – I know that a lot of people who like to have things look their way on their websites/blogs but you are better off to pick a popular well-used template and install that vs. hiring a graphic designer / coder who may not understand SEO very well.

They could set up your website with some bad SEO practices and then you’ll be hiding things from Google by accident.

2. Install Google Webmaster Tools on your website. – This will help you tremendously in determining how Google views your website. Yes, I’m repeating myself here – it’s that important.

3. Use Xena or Screaming Frog to check for broken links. – Even Google Webmaster Tools can help you find broken links. Once you find them, try and fix them.

4. If you are using wordpress (not wordpress.com or blogger/blogspot), you can use SEO by Yoast to help you fill in the necessary meta data. – Many websites I notice have the same meta data for each page of the website – meta data should be different for each page – that is an easy fix and benefits the website a lot.

5. Make sure you are spreading your blog posts across multiple networks as well as email if you have that. – Your post isn’t done when you hit Publish – it’s just starting. You need to actively push the post through your social networks to your audience. Some cool tools to help you do this are Buffer or Social Oompf.


6. When adding images and video to your blog, make sure you are adding Alt. Text, Captions and Titles as well as naming the image and video with keywords of what it is. When I build a photo or image for my blog, here are the steps I follow.

  1. Make the photo/image.
  2. Label the photo using keywords with dashes. Like an image of our offices might be labeled dairy-management-inc-newsroom-2014.jpg
  3. Upload to my blog.
  4. Put in the meta data and the caption.
  5. Mark it as the featured image on the page (if necessary due to the template)
  6. Make sure when I share the blog post on social media that the image comes up as part of that post and not the other images on the page.

7. Guest blog on other websites and link back to yourself via your bio. – Guest blogging can sometimes be difficult to do because you have to have trusted relationships with those in charge of the blog you want to be a part of but trust me if you get the opportunity you should do it (but only on websites that are associated with the same topics as your website). Google is cracking down on guest blogging black hat techniques so be aware of that.

How do you begin guest blogging? Follow the blogs you want to be on and reach out. Simply Google things like “best farming blogs to follow”, “best food posts 2014”, “top agriculture blogs to follow”, etc… They will pop up.

8. Take some time and add your website to directories and lists. – Is your blog listed in any directories or lists? It should be. There are many places to add your blog and make sure it gets listed. You can also use tools to “ping” these directories to let them know you updated your post recently like Pingomatic.

9. Longer text is found more often than short posts. – People are scanning the internet still – but they want deeper content. Writing over 1000 words can seem like a lot but I’ll bet if you get going on a post, the words will just flow.

You should edit and keep people interested (adding images and video will do that) but a longer post will be seen as more relevant – that you put more time into it and has a better chance of being linked to and indexed by Google.

10. Quote the experts in the field you want people to find out about you. – If it’s about farming, there’s nothing wrong with quoting from other farmers, government, organizations, foodies, etc…

This marketing technique of calling out the most popular people on the internet has been going on forever but it still works. A lot of real celebrities will probably ignore you since they rely on other media to generate their popularity but internet famous people are usually right there to talk to and get information from. They are also usually very aware when someone talks about them online because they are using monitoring tools like Mention.com or Talkwalker.com/alerts. BTW, you should start using them too to monitor when people talk about you.

How do you measure this is working?
Google Webmaster Tools combined with Google Analytics will help you answer this question but that’s another post coming down the road.

What about you guys? Any fun tips for handling SEO on your blogs?

written by Don Schindler


30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media - Don Schindler - How do people find you even when they don't know you exist? - AgChat.org

As Senior Vice President of Digital Initiatives, Don Schindler is responsible for the digital

architecture and integration of all digital properties at Dairy Management Inc.  He is also training farmers, DMI staff and dairy industry professionals in digital communications and social media. Connect with Don on his website.

30 Days: Agvocacy Rehab

Is it just me or do things in the food world seem to be getting worse? When I say ‘things’ I mean attacks on toxic wheat, misleading videos of a dairy farm, artists doctoring aerial photos of beef feedlots, celebrity spout outs, statements arguing glyphosate is to blame for autism or celiac disease {or any number of ailments}, the Food nut, passionate teenage girls fighting against GMOS, attacks against an organic farmer due to an increase risk of listeria, a blog post touting brown eggs are a healthier choice over white or my personal favorite, the end of Thanksgiving because turkeys are poisonous. When you put all of this together in one sentence, or even one Facebook timeline it can make even the best of agvocates become overwhelmed. Even though it may seem like the issues are becoming more frequent, it may be that the food world has been the same as always – it could be that I’m perceiving it to be worse because I’m overwhelmed.

So, as agriculture advocates how do we gain a better outlook? Here are some pointers I keep in my back pocket for the days when I need some agvocacy rehab:

1.) Sometimes the next best step, is a step back. This past summer I went on a planned butAgvocacy Rehab - 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media - AgChat.org unintentional semi-black out during our county fair. I wasn’t searching for perspective. I was being a 4H mom, volunteering as a county photographer and department superintendent and doing my share to keep our heifers’ stalls clean and still maintain our home. Sitting down at my desk wasn’t realistically possible. Compared to most years, our barns had increased traffic from residents all over the county. I found myself spending time answering many questions. There were many of the common ones such as why are your cows so skinny, can I pet one, what are they? I like to extend those questions to cover the difference between a cow and heifer, hay and straw and eventually encouraging parents to sign their children up for 4H in the coming year. The craziest thing happened. By taking this unintentional step backwards I remembered why I began advocating for agriculture. My passion was refreshed, revived and I was revved up to tell my story.

2.) Detox: For some its knitting, others running, and many enjoy baking – I find that spending time on Pinterest helps my mind relax. My goal is searching for my non-agriculture interests. Of course, you run across pins which might contain misinformation or questions about dairy or even a great tip you could pass along to other agvocates. I have a secret board where those are pinned. When I’m feeling refreshed, I sort through the pins on that board and choose which are worth addressing.

3.) Throw the negativity and drama to the curb. There will always be people who thrive on being negative and creating drama. The best way to keep yourself energized is by avoiding these types of people. Surround yourself with trusting friends who will pick you up and dust you off when you’ve had a bad day.

4.) Answer this question – Why do you advocate for agriculture? Before you begin, give yourself some time, a cup of coffee or hot tea and a notebook. Look deep inside, peeling back all of the layers, and write your intentions on paper.

5.) Kill three birds with one stone – After you’ve finished considering why you advocate, reflect on your social media use thus far. Determine what you love and what you hate. Write these answers down. Once you’ve completed answering these three questions, hang the piece of paper in a prominent place such as your desk or where ever you are mostly likely to sit down to advocate.

6.) Be proactive and have a strategy. Help yourself before you become overwhelmed. Develop a list of hot topics that your readers may address – decide how you will respond. Research and identify commonly asked questions about your segment of agriculture – brainstorm about how you will answer those questions. Prepare a process so you know what you will do in a certain situations – you’ll avoid much stress by having answers readily available rather than running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

7.) Minimize your time on Facebook – People in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks, right? I’m as guilty as the next guy and spend too much time on Facebook. I do make a conscious effort to make the time I am there count. Even with the best intentions, I get sucked into becoming annoyed with the mom who has the beautiful, do-no-wrong kids – even when you know that one of her kids was just in detention last week. Or, another misleading blog post has been shared by a friend. Its one which contains zero credibility but all of my non-ag friends feel its the best thing since sliced cake.

I think we’ve all read these types of posts and they tend to breed negativity and boiling blood. Don’t get me wrong. There are many people who I’m so thankful to be connected with on Facebook. I love seeing old friends’ kids growing up, watching someone be congratulated for a nobel achievement and even those ugly weather reports. Its the negative posts which cause burnout and essentially make us feel overwhelmed. Aside from minimizing your time on Facebook you can also use lists which will thin out some of those ‘Negative Nellys.’

8.) Shut down your email – Email can contribute to becoming overwhelmed in a couple of ways.

  • The feeling of urgency. As a society we’ve been tuned to respond to emails, situations, comments, etc… immediately. Its almost as though we are expected to respond as soon as the email lands in our inboxes, regardless if it is something that can wait. For some time, I’ve prompted people to understand that in situations which warrant a legitimate, immediate response, they should send me a text, Facebook message or phone call. When the mode of contact changes to text, message or phone call, people are more likely to pause and determine whether the response is truly urgent.
  • Spam and subscriptions – Even with the best filters and tightest security, the spam emails can pile up quickly. Add all of the blogs you’ve subscribed to and bam you have extra messages to sort.

8.) Set your Key Performance Indicators – Your key performance indicators or KPI, are how you are measuring your success. These indicators will likely be different from everyone else and unique to you based on which social media channels you use and your goals. Its key to remember these are your goals. Compare yourself to you. Know which KPI’s are meaningful to you and don’t worry about comparing yourself to someone else.

Some examples of KPI’s:

  • The number of followers on Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram
  • The number of likes on Facebook – due to Facebook’s algorithm its more useful to look at your engagement rather than who follows you. A quick way to measure this is by dividing the number of people talking about your page by your total page likes. This will tell you the percentage of followers who are engaged on your page. Percent engagement - 30 Days of Agvocacy & Social Media - AgChat.org
  • The amount of referral traffic your blog is receiving from Pinterest (refer to Google Analytics for this info).
  • Take a look at the last 5-7 photos you’ve published on Instagram – how many likes have you received? How many comments?
  • Using a program such as SumAll determine the number of Twitter mentions received on a daily or weekly basis.
  • The number of comments received on your blog per week or month.
  • Measure based on your blog’s bounce rate

There are many more indicators you can use. These are just a few examples.

Becoming overwhelmed can lead to the demise of your agriculture advocacy efforts. As we’ve discussed there are many proactive ways to prevent becoming overwhelmed. There are also techniques you can use which will relieve current stress. Keeping stress under control will also keep all of those issues from appearing to be worse or more frequent than they truly are.

written by Jenny Schweigert


Jenny serves as the AgChat Foundation Executive Director while helping manage her family’s Jenny Schweigert - AgChat.org photo courtesy of Keiser Photography https://www.facebook.com/KeiserPhotographysmall 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.