The Chick Wire: Connecting With Consumers Through a Podcast

Recently, I went through a change. No, it wasn’t a mid-life crisis; I’m not quite there yet! But, I did have to change my name. It wasn’t a divorce or remarriage either. I’m still annoying the same guy I have been for the last 15 years. I had to change my social media handle and website name. For several years I was known as Farm Barbie, now I’m the founder of The Chick Wire.

The Chick WireThe Chick Wire is a network of women that shares values, cultivates understanding, and inspires without judgment. That’s the overall mission statement. Now, how I go about achieving that mission is by interviewing amazing women in any career, hobby, or life story for my podcast. These “chicks” tell me their story as I interview them using values-based messaging, which in turn leads the listeners to understand and hopefully be inspired to some course of action in their own life.

Let’s face it: there’s enough bad news, nasty trolls, and awful weather and commodity prices to make your head explode. That’s why I decided to use my legal struggle and name change to be a literal voice for agriculture and promote some positivity and good in the world while integrating information about ag.

It feels like it’s always us (farmers and ranchers) against them (consumers). My lofty goal is to stop the game of Us vs. Them, and instead create a big ol’ happy campfire we can all sing Kumbaya around. With each chick I interview, I’m reaching a new audience. Her family, friends, and colleagues are tuning in to hear her episode. They decide they like it and maybe listen to a few more, or they subscribe to my podcast on iTunes and listen to the newest episode every week. It’s a slow integration of anyone from any walk of life, but I think and hope it will be the game changer of ag-understanding in this country. As each chick is telling her story, I’m adding in snippets of my own story, my farm, or things I’ve learned from other farmer friends. Listeners hear a little bit every week about farmers and farming, and can slowly begin to trust me as a voice for agriculture, and overall trust the American farmer like they used to.

Podcasting is very underrepresented in agriculture. Many folks don’t even know what a podcast is! I can think of only a handful of podcasts that even have something to do with farmers or farming. It’s a form of media that is quickly developing, and in fact, podcasting is the new it-thing, especially with millennials. Case in point: my husband (39 years old) still listens to our local AM radio station because it’s the only station he can get in many of our tractors. Once I showed him how to use the podcast app on his iPhone, and search and subscribe to podcasts like mine, he began listening to different types of podcasts all the time. I like to fold laundry, sweep floors, cook, and drive the kids to practices and games with a podcast playing in my pocket. I’m learning something while being entertained and getting my work done at the same time, which is much better than just listening to music. I’m a big fan of podcasts!

Now, down to the nuts and bolts of podcasting: it’s actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it! I must admit, I didn’t figure it all out on my own. I hired a small business technology consulting firm to help me get started, and they showed me how to do it all. I use a quality hand-held voice recorder for my in-person interviews, and Skype with a set of headphones for my phone-call interviews. I have Garage Band on my Mac, which I use to create and edit an episode. I manage my website using squarespace, and simply upload the audio file to my blog page, along with pictures and show notes, and it’s automatically connected to iTunes. In fact, iTunes has tons of helpful and handy guides to help you get started. The hardest part is actually conducting the interview with the chick, because I’m not a journalist or a professional interviewer. I’m just a mom on a mission. A big company thought they could silence me, but they didn’t know whom they were dealing with. They might have won the battle over a name, but they didn’t win the war over me. Agriculture is something worth fighting for and this Barbie has a lot more fight in her!

Have you heard of The Chick Wire Show yet? If not, feel free to head on over to iTunes (or wherever you want to listen to podcasts), and simply search “The Chick Wire.” You can listen to one episode at a time, or subscribe and automatically listen to the latest “chick” show every time I release a new episode.

Thanks for tuning in! Toodaloo!

Staying Positive When Times Are Tough on the Farm

As a young girl I always dreamed of owning my own farm/ranch. I grew up on my parent’s hobby farm bucking square bales and riding/driving our Minneapolis Moline tractor. Who knew that my life would turn out the way it has. Marrying an immigrant from England, that also had the same dream of owning and operating a farm. Now, 2 kids later, we are a first generation farm family. But it just didn’t land at our feet. Just kind of like advocating for what we do every day. It started just to keep my husband’s family in the loop of what we were doing. Then it was the pull of the consumer wanting to know how and what we do on the farm. That’s when writing and pictures became more important than ever.

Stressed WomanThen the down markets. With all highs, come lows, and that doesn’t exclude markets or the farm life. Recently I was struggling on how to keep going with advocating. All I wanted to do was focus on our family and the farm. Nothing good was happening, and farming didn’t seem fun anymore. Not when you’re getting paid pennies for all the work and hours spent sowing and reaping the crops we took time on. Why would I want to share our emotional stress? Nobody cares. Would they think that we’re just whining? Would they understand? How do I convey the feeling of the unknowing of how we’re going to make it through?

Farming isn’t always the romantic rosy picture, we know that. Consumers need to know that too. Being a true farmer and a true optimist go hand in hand. It’s having the bravery and tenacity to keep moving forward. Consumers need to see our good, bad, and ugly. Don’t be hesitant to share your story. Share your emotional pull toward the land, and what you do.

Hope is the best medicine for our future. Let’s show them that.


Jenny BurgessJenny Burgess is a Farmer who farms with her husband and two children in the heart of central Kansas. She grew up on a hobby farm not too far from where she raises her family now. The only child, she learned the true meaning of hard work. From bucking bales, feeding animals, and driving antique tractors, she was a girl who tried to keep up with her dad with the chores. She met her husband, who was from England, and eventually got married. They both had the dream of owning their own farm. Today that dream still lives and is growing, along with two kids. They grow Wheat, Corn, Soybeans, and Milo, all dryland crops.

Follow Jenny on her blog, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Ask Yourself These Three Questions Before Responding to Your Ag Customers

If you’ve been to any ag meetings or conferences over the past few years, you’ve heard the message that we should all be talking to people about farming, food and ag online,  in person, or at community events, etc…

And sometimes, at good conferences, they will even go into the “what” you should be talking to them about. So you might hear them say (and I’ve said this too) you need to be talking about:

  •      Animal Care
  •      Family Values
  •      Farm Technology
  •      Sustainability and the Environment
  •      Food Safety
  •      Good Farming Practices
  •      Employee Relations

And they might want you to address some of the controversial subjects like antibiotics, hormones, GMOs and animal treatment.

But what I don’t see a lot of talk about is “how” you could talk. In other words, what should your tone and manner be when you want to have an engaging conversation with your customer about ag.

When it comes these conversations, I suggest you try this three question approach.

  1.     What am I trying to accomplish with this conversation?
  2.     How am I seeing them?
  3.     How do I want them to see me?

And this is where I think a lot of potentially good conversations go off the rails. I don’t think either conversation participant has thought these questions through and what began as a conversation turns into a war of words that someone needs to “win”.

But if we use the above approach when it comes to communicating, you can see how it will shape our tone.Starwars

Let’s do an example.

You are on Facebook and you share a positive dairy farming story about cow care on your Facebook page.

dairy farmA question pops up from a person.

Someone writes on the page. “Don’t you think it’s better to have cows on the pasture to keep them cool?”

Now because almost all farmers I know do animal care differently (some on pasture and some not) this question could be considered a threat. I would always recommend clicking through to the person’s profile to see if they are a threat or not. Usually it’s pretty easy to tell if they are against animal ag. But let’s say they are not. They just have a question.

So you have to ask yourself: What am I trying to accomplish with this conversation?

I believe that it would be every farmer’s desire to have this person trust what the article says about dairy cows and technology and trust them as a dairy farmer taking care of cows.

What do people trust? They trust people that are experts in their field, that share their knowledge and that are consistent and reliable in what they share. Farmers have a lot of trust already (food and ag especially farmers test high in credibility and authority, according to Gallup.)

So, let’s answer the second question.

How am I seeing them? When it comes to your customers, you need to be honest with yourself in how you see them. When I speak at ag conferences and I show images of young urban millennials doing millennial things (snapchatting, hanging in coffee shops, shopping at a farmer’s market, etc.) I get a few snide remarks and put downs. If that’s how you think of your customers, then it will have a negative effect on the conversation.

So how should you see your customers? They are the heroes of this conversation. What? I didn’t say they were the heroes of your life and you need to be following their lead. What I’m trying to say is that when you are speaking with them, they are concerned with themselves – they are the heroes of their lives.

This brings us to the final questions, how do I want them to see me?

In most stories and movies, what does a hero almost always need to achieve his goal. You got it, a guide. Someone who knows how to help the hero – someone who loves the hero and, in a lot of movies, someone who sacrifices themselves for the sake of the hero.

I think you should consider yourself the hero’s good guide to good food production and good farming practices.

Your customers need someone to guide them. Someone they can trust that knows animals and the land. And this goes right along with other images that they hold about farmers – hard-working, strong, wholesome, happy and tough. You can see that image displayed most often in pickup truck ads like this Dodge one.

There’s an analogy I love to use in class mostly because almost everyone I know has seen the movies, Star Wars.

Your customers are like Luke Skywalkers. They are on a quest for good food that they don’t have to feel guilty about. They want to make sure the food they are serving their families is healthy, tastes great and wasn’t produced by the Evil Empire.

You are like Obi-Wan, a Jedi knight/farmer who knows the ways of good farming and great animal care. You show them insights (I’m not a fan of “educating” people on ag – the term, I believe, is often used in a condescending way by some ag leaders) into how you farm and why you do it that way.

But if you think of yourselves as Obi-Wan’s, then the tone and your attitude change. You don’t ever attack Luke. You are patient and thorough. You use clear language and you never put them down. You want them to be the hero – to rise up with their new information and share it with others because they trust you and your knowledge.

Is it tough to be Obi-Wan? Yes, of course, it is. But does it leave an impression on Luke? You bet it does. Will you still get attacked by negativity? Yes, but Obi-Wan always took the high road because that’s the road of integrity and trust.


Would you like help in being more like Obi-Wan? You can always reach out directly to me via or contact your local State and Regional dairy checkoffs.

Would you like to spread more positive dairy stories on your social media pages and profiles? Please join the Dairy Amplification Center. This mobile and web application allows you to share positive dairy stories (that are updated almost daily) to your social feeds with just one click.


don-schindler-pic-262x272Don Schindler is the Senior Vice President of Digital Innovations at DMI. Don has been teaching farmers, staff and the dairy industry how to connect with consumers using social media and digital marketing for the past three years. He’s also responsible for new digital technologies at DMI. Before coming to DMI, Don directed the Communications team at the University of Notre Dame and taught classes at the Mendoza College of Business at ND. He grew up on beef and row crop farm in southeast Missouri.

Reducing Food Waste – Talk About It. Be About It.

Food WasteFeeding a growing population has been on the minds of those of us growing food for decades. And as of late, it is something readily written about on our blogs and shared across our social media feeds.

Every day we are conversing about today’s farmers and how we are able to do so much more with less. We highlight how far farming has come since 1960 when an individual farmer could only feed 25.8 people. We talk about, and agvocate for, every new technology that helps us remain sustainable and “feed the 9”, and that’s great – it really is. But, we are missing an opportunity, and quite frankly, doing ourselves a disservice if we are not also addressing food waste as part of that discussion.

Food Waste

Food waste is a huge problem that has been allowed to run rampant for far too long now. In the United States alone we waste a staggering 40% of all food purchased. And yet, food waste is a topic that most remain relatively quiet about. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be more upset about the food we work so hard to grow being literally thrown in the garbage? Shouldn’t we be making more noise on the issue?

The answer is yes. We should be more upset, and we should be making more noise to draw attention to the insane amounts of food being wasted each year. One of the best ways to bring attention to something is to…

Talk About It

Literally, talk about it. Bring up food waste in your daily face-to-face conversations. Then take to your blog and/or your social media properties and talk about it some more. The following are both great ways to engage readers in a virtual conversation.

  • Start a series. Sure, you can publish the occasional post on food waste, but blogging in series is a great way to engage existing readers and gain new ones. I started the year off with a food waste series called Diary of a Recovering Food Waster. The series was one part shedding light on food waste and one part holding myself accountable to my own goals in reducing waste. In it, I shared my food wasting wins and fails, as well as tips and tricks to reducing waste.

Diary of a Recovering Food Waster has since been transformed into a new series – Food Saver Friday. The aim of the new series is to focus on answering reader questions and providing more actionable goals, tips, and tricks for reducing food waste.

The beauty of a series is flexibility. You can post on a weekly or monthly intervals. It can go on indefinitely, or it can have clear start and stop dates. You can write all the posts yourself, or you can take on guest writers. Regardless what you choose, one thing is certain, a blog series is an excellent way to talk about and draw attention to the issue at hand, which in this case is food waste.

  • Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag. Utilize the power of the hashtag by either creating your own, or jumping on an existing food waste related hashtag. For example, whenever I share anything from my Food Saver Friday series, or just a post about food waste on a Friday, I use #FoodSaverFriday (my original) and #WasteLess (one I jumped on by taking the challenge – see below).

Don’t stop with the mere act of hashtagging – amplify them. Engage your readers, and other bloggers, by inviting them to also share posts about food waste and how to reduce it, using the same hashtags.

Be About It

Because it is not enough to simply talk about reducing food waste, we also need to be about it – change our own habits so we can lead by example. If a new habit can be developed in just 21 days, then the Beef Checkoff’s 30 Day Food Waste Challenge is a great way to reform current habits and get started on the path to reduced food waste. The challenge offers simple solutions to common food wasting conundrums, as well as delicious recipe ideas. And the best part, besides the obvious – reducing food waste, is that sharing the knowledge gained by accepting the challenge is not only allowed, but also strongly encouraged.

If you are ready to be about it, click here to take the challenge and #WasteLess.

Every day we talk about sustainability and feeding the world, but imagine the impact we would have if we turned the conversation to food waste. Imagine the number of people we could feed and the resources we would save if we could get even a fraction of our readers to take heed and waste less. So, let’s talk about it, and be about it. Let’s reduce food waste to help feed the world.


Terryn Drieling Terryn grew up on a small feedyard in northeast Nebraska. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and participated in the UNL Feedyard Management Internship. The internship brought her to a large western Nebraska feedyard, where she worked as part of the animal health crew for more than 7 years. Terryn and her husband run a small herd of cows in partnership with her in-laws. But their day job is living and working on a large ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, raising beef and bringing up their three kids. Terryn writes about their everyday ranch life on her blog Faith Family and Beef.

Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest.

Transparency in AgVocacy

“Eeuuu, Pee-U, What stinks?”

When I hear that from our visitors I know their romanticized view of farming is heading for a change.

“Why can’t the babies stay with their mothers? It seems so mean.”


When I begin to share the benefits from feeding the calf with a measured amount, the safety from being stepped on, the freshly cleaned, sanitized stall that they will be watched and fed I can see their perception changing.

“Why aren’t your cows out in the fields?”

Yes, today is a nice day to be lollygagging in the open fields – at least until about noon when it will become stifling hot this time of year. Or, would you prefer in 90 degree weather to be in the shaded barn misted with water and cooled with fans?

A large percentage of people I speak with have their own vision of what my farm will look like when I tell them I am a dairy farmer.

3 4

Some think I go out every morning with my apron on and throw some feed to a few chickens. While I collect the eggs, Farmer goes out to milk our two cows using a three legged stool. Then we all come in and have a huge breakfast made from the fresh eggs and bacon from the pig we butchered a few months ago. After breakfast, Farmer jumps on his tractor to do some field work while I’m in the kitchen canning tomatoes and baking bread. If only.

5At a store one day the clerk pointed out to my daughter-in-law a picture on the wall of a cow with horns. She mentioned that everyone was calling the cow Sally. “But, everyone knows that is a boy cow. Only boy cows have horns.”

My daughter-in-law politely answered “No, all cows have horns.”

The clerk adamantly replied, “No, only boys have horns everyone knows that!”

My daughter-in-law responded with “I live on a dairy farm and all calves have horns.”

The clerk just looked at her and turned away.

One of the occurrences that surprise me when we give tours is that many don’t realize or think through the fact that a cow has to give birth before she gives milk. That’s how it works with humans and once they hear that they think, “Oh yes I guess that’s how it would work.”

We met a gentleman the other day on a park bench and started up a conversation. He was sharing how good his health was for an older man. He mentioned that he was a vegetarian. I said to him “It looks like you’re doing a great job of eating a vegetarian diet correctly. Can I ask you why you chose not to eat meat?”

“Sure. I guess I just didn’t like the fact that my meat would come from those big factory farms that don’t take good care of their animals.”

“Have you ever been to a factory farm or know anyone who owns one?” I asked politely.

“No, not really, but I heard they don’t take care of the animals and I didn’t want to be part of that.”

6“Well, we just happen to be dairy farmers and our farm is big enough to be considered a CAFO – which many people call factory farms. We enlarged our farm to be able to support our three sons that were growing into the business.”

I went on to explain a few things and we invited him out to the farm. When we left, he had our phone number, my farm face book page and my blog information. He called the next day and asked if he could come to the farm with a couple of friends.

A few weeks ago I was handed a sample of cheese at the grocery store and the young lady gave her little speech about the cheese and added “It’s antibiotic free.”

Indian Trail Farm Milk Withhold

This is the chart of withdrawal time for medicines. As a farm we take extra time.

I told her how good the cheese was and the introduced myself as a dairy farmer and began to explain that all milk is antibiotic free. I revealed how our milk is tested at the dairy before it enters the system and that if it contained any antibiotics it would be dumped. I shared with her how our computer system and leg bands would set off alarms in the parlor if a cow that has been treated would enter. They are kept in separate pens. Also, I expressed our desire to care for our animals when sick and sometimes that means medication. Once they are well and the antibiotics are out of their system (which is directed by the company that produces the medication) they may come back into the regular milking parlor.

Overwhelmingly people are listening to the loudest voice when it comes to their food supply. And, usually the loudest voice is perpetuating fear in their message. Making decisions based on fear is not a good thing. And, who can blame you? As a mother I want to be sure my family is fed good, quality, safe food.Indian Trail Farm American FlagMy goal is to be the calm voice of information. I don’t carry signs and protest, or put out heart tugging commercials to get you to donate money to my cause. I basically open the doors to our farm and life through my blogging and face book page. We also physically open the doors to our farm for tours.11

I will show the awesome miracle of birth, the great improvements in the industry, the beautiful fields of corn and the painted country skies. You will also learn about the trials of farming in bad weather – too much rain, not enough rain, snow that caves in barn roofs and pests that devour crops. Along with the miracle of birth you will see the reality of death. It’s is never easy when you have to put an animal down or lose one after spending days trying to save her.10

And there will be poop! A lot of poop. Cows eat so therefore they poop. And poop has a unique odor that many people don’t appreciate. Too many people want to move out to the open fields– the fields that grow food for animals that poop that smell – with wrong expectations.Indian Trail Farm, Duck

The bottom line for agvocating? – My Farmer and sons work terribly hard. The hours are long and their bodies are paying the price. Lately the milk prices are so low it’s a challenge to figure out how to keep the wheels turning. When I see them covered in dust and dirt, falling asleep standing up and then read lies, condescending and twisted articles about what we are doing, I get emotionally upset. I become sad and frustrated that the people eating the food that my family is working so hard for are criticizing what we do. I get angry – you wanted transparency well there you have it. I get angry that we are not only working our tails off physically, now we have to work to explain the truth, to expose lies and soothe fears.

I was a big fan of show and tell at school. Now, I do show and tell on steroids and work to get the truth out to the people who need it the most. When I am sick I go to the doctor for help, not a celebrity or well-known athlete. I want a doctor who is educated, who practices on a daily basis. I encourage consumers to bring their questions here to AgChat or Ask the Farmers Facebook page where they have access to all types of farmers.

You can visit my page – A Farm Wife or my blog and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you.

The next time you have a bowl of cereal with milk or milk and cookies I hope you think of us here in West MI loving the life that helped produce your milk.

This is what we do for fun: