Introducing ACF’s Summer 2015 Intern & Why Do I Agvocate?

AgChat Foundation would like to officially welcome Melissa Woolpert as our summer 2015 intern. Melissa is an Melissa Woolpert ACF Summer Intern - AgChat.orgalumnae of the inaugural 2015 Collegiate Congress and a graduate student at the University of Vermont, pursuing her Masters of Science degree in Food Systems.

Her journey to agriculture advocacy has been unique and a strong indication that all people, regardless of their background, can successfully advocate for agriculture. The story is the second in our “Why Do I Agvocate?” series.

Dreaming of becoming a veterinarian, Melissa spent her Monterey County, California childhood riding horses. Her dream led to the University of Vermont to study Animal Science. As a part of coursework, she worked milking and caring for dairy cattle. She was immediately hooked and at the duration of her class, she began milking at a local dairy and has never turned back. Her love of farming developed into a desire to learn more about food and she returned to obtain her Masters of Science degree in Food Systems.

While she did not grow up around farming or ranching, her love and experience working in the dairy industry has created a drive to foster positive discussion, thought and support for our food system. Her journey from a sunny, Californian eater to an advocating farmer, is shared in more depth on her blog CountrybyChance.com. You can also catch up with her on the CountryByChance Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram.  We would love for you to take a look and see how she encourages other eaters to jump into advocating for food.

You will also find a great opportunity to connect with Melissa on the AgChat Foundation Facebook page, #AgChat Facebook group, the FoodChat Facebook page and on Twitter. Please give her a warm, AgChat shout out to welcome her!

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AgChat Foundation Partners with ThirstyLand Film maker Conrad Weaver

Emmitsburg, Maryland – Will there be enough water to survive? “Thirsty Land” is an exciting new documentary that tells the story of drought, its impact on agriculture, communities and the global food supply.

Filmmaker, Conrad Weaver is already well known for his award-winning documentary “The Great American Wheat Harvest.” Working with farmers and harvesters has led him to turn the focus of his company, Conjostudios LLC, exclusively to agriculture, and now he’s focusing on the drought that’s strangling our landscape, and threatening our food supply.

“The story of drought needs to be told! Our global food supply and our very survival of humans depend on clean, abundant fresh water.  I want to make the audience think about it every time they take a drink of water, enjoy a shower or water their lawn.”

The AgChat Foundation is collaborating with Weaver as the in-kind “Fiscal Sponsor” and fundraising partner of “Thirsty Land” film.  The Foundation will provide fundraising support as a 501c3 non-profit organization, enabling Weaver to receive grants, and other tax-deductible donations for the film project.

“I’m thrilled to be able to work with AgChat Foundation,” says Weaver, “Their mission for connecting consumers to their food is completely in line with the mission of our film. The films we produce at ConjoStudios are all about helping consumers understand how agriculture works, so our collaboration is a win-win for both of us!”

Jenny Schweigert, Executive Director of AgChat Foundation says, “Participation with ConjosStudios, LLC, and the Thirsty Land film is an incredible opportunity to connect consumers to the farmers and ranchers who are producing our food, fuel and fibers. The AgChat Foundation’s overall goals are two-fold: to empower those in agriculture with the tools they need to develop meaningful conversations with consumers and to provide conduit for our industry to connect with those who are not involved with farming or ranching. Conrad has a unique eye for creatively grabbing viewers’ attention while also framing situations, such as the drought, in a way which inspires everyone to become part of the solution. We are honored to assist Conrad in bringing the dire conditions of drought to the forefront of everyone’s mind by supporting the conduit provided by Thirsty Land.”

Weaver is launching a “Crowdfunding” campaign for “Thirsty Land” on June 1 through IndieGoGo.com with a goal of raising $25,000 to help with the production of the film. 
Visit https://conjostudios.leadpages.net/thirstyland-trailer/  to view the film trailer, and sign up for more information.

For interview requests and more information on the making of the film, contact Conrad Weaver at 301-606-7794 or email conrad@conjostudios.com today.

Celebrating National Agriculture Week 2015

National Agriculture Week is a tribute to the hard working folks who bring food, fuel and fiber to our everyday lives. All three elements are essential to the survival of human kind. That is something to celebrate! Wondering how you can celebrate? Here are just a few events or efforts you can find:

  • #FoodChat – moderated by Michele Payn-Knoper, ACF will be hosting our monthly #FoodChat conversation on Twitter celebrating National Agriculture Week, National Nutrition Month and St. Patrick’s day. Join the conversation Tues., March 17th, 8-10pmET.
  • Pay it forward! Become an individual sponsor of the AgChat Foundation! Contributions provided will assist in spreading the word about agriculture advocacy, assist in reducing conference registration fees during 2015 and support farmers and ranchers with resources such as how-to blog posts.
  • #AgProud – Join AgChat Foundation alum, Ryan Goodman as he celebrates National Agriculture Day by encourage you to share why you are Agriculture Proud! Use the hash tag #AgProud and #AgDay2015 on social media networks and connect to those who are using your products.
  • Check out the events around the U.S. which will be celebrating National Agriculture Day on Wed., March 18th

Celebrate National Ag Week! AgChat.org

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: Rockin’ Photography Tips

I am asked quite frequently how I make my photos good. While some of it does have to do with the camera you use, more of it actually has to do with how you utilize the tool(s) you do have – be it a point and shoot digital camera, a fancy DSLR or a smartphone. The tips I’ll share below work for any of the above mentioned devices, and I’ll share a mix of smartphone (iPhone5) and DSLR photos.

 

  • Be closer than you think you need to be.  This is done by moving your feet, and getting in tight! Don’t be scared!

 

  • Avoid the junk.  You want the focus to be on your ranch/animals/product/yourself – not the unsightly corrals, or poop on the ground, or (fill in the blank).  I often tell people – I don’t care how cute your kids is, if you take a photo of them in their dad’s cowboy boots, but you’re in the living room with dirty laundry, trash, or toys scattered about in an unsightly manner, the photo will not be as powerful.
Clear out the trash...

Clear out the trash…

south dakota cowgirl photography, south dakota, longhorn photos, longhorns, west river cattle

This one is much better, because you focus on the pretty, bull calf and his mom. Not the old, decrepit corrals.

 

  • Do not use the digital zoom. I have no examples of this, because I never do it. So, I’ll tell you what will happen. The photo will get “noisy”, and then it’s not as clear as it would be if you just moved your feet a little closer to the subject. See the first point above! I realize that when you’re shooting wildlife, this may not be possible, but for everyday shooting on the farm or ranch, you’ll get a better quality photo by simply moving closer. You destroy the data on the photo by using the digital zoom and reduce image quality. You’ll want to crop the photo for the best maximum impact, and I talk about that, below.
  • Shoot into your shadow. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it is a way for a beginner or budding photographer to learn the best use of light. If you look closely at the photo above, you can see my shadow near the black and white calf. When you’re in mid-day sun it’s not as important as it is a dawn or dusk. Don’t be afraid to move around, but generally you’ll find the best light when you’re shooting with the sun over your back.
south dakota cowgirl photography, south dakota cowgirl, agchat, equine photos

Mares stand by a dam in early June- you can see their shadows, are almost directly under them.

south dakota cowgirl photography, south dakota landscapes, south dakota, agchat, sweet clover

Shadows in the clouds, show the sun behind me. Utilize the clouds when possible, because they make things more interesting and lead the eye.

 

  • Lead the eye with lines. You can make a very powerful impact leading the eye with lines. Think lines of dairy cows, or fattened yearlings at the feed bunk. This also allows you an opportunity to avoid junk by focusing on the cows closest to you.
south dakota cowgirl photography, cattle, ranch life

Where does this fence go? I lead your eye right to the gray, foggy, overhanging cloud.

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Cows head to the corral at a summer branding.

 

  • Tell a story. I am constantly dreaming up new shots/ideas/things I want to photograph. While it might be weeks/months/years before I’m able to make them happen, I know I’ll be ready when the opportunity presents itself. I try to avoid setting up shots on the ranch as much as possible, because I’d like to capture life as it happens.
south dakota cowgirl photography, south dakota cowgirl, cowboy, calving, a cowboy carries a calf

What is he doing? Why is he carrying the calf? This gives you an opportunity to educate with a photo.

  • Don’t take a snapshot – take the time to compose the shot.  By thinking about the story you want to tell, you will be ready when the chance happens, because you will have seen it play out in your mind at least a time or two.
south dakota cowgirl photography, equine photography, horses in the snow, south dakota

Tell your story – This one is called, “you got somethin’ for me?” The ranch mares are always looking for oats or cow cake in the winter months.

south dakota cowgirl photography, equine photography, horses in the snow, south dakota

Hello there!

south dakota cowgirl photography, equine photography, horses in the snow, south dakota

I’m still looking for some goodies! Don’t you know it’s snowing?

south dakota cowgirl photography, equine photography, horses in the snow, south dakota

Faces in the Snow. Of all the photos in this series, this is the one I’d dreamed up in my head many years before I ever got the chance to take it. But I was prepared when opportunity presented itself.

 

 

 

  • Think about angles. This makes the photograph more interesting and will capture the attention of your audience.
south dakota cowgirl photography, equine photography, south dakota

Looking up at horses lounging.

south dakota cowgirl photography, equine photography, south dakota

Do you see just the feet of horses or is there more to this photo than that?

 

  • Crop your photos for maximum impact. I don’t want to talk about what makes a great B/W photo now, because that’s another blog post in and of itself (hint hint), but I can say that cropping a photo can make a big statement! Always keep that in mind when you’re getting ready to share your photo with the world.
south dakota cowgirl photography, south dakota, equine photography

This is the “SOOC” (straight out of the camera) version.

 

south dakota cowgirl photography, south dakota, equine photography

This is the “after” version.

 

  • Utilize the focus/exposure feature on your smartphone.  If you learn to tap the screen where you want your phone to focus it will help you either make the setting brighter, or focus on what’s closest to you. Either way, it’s a win!

I truly hope you found these tips to be helpful, and if you ever have photography questions, don’t hesitate to look me up.

Happy Trails!

written by Jenn Zeller

_____________________________________________________Jenn Zeller 30 Days of Agvocacy and Social Media - Photography Tips - AgChat.org

 

Telling her story through photos, Jenn Zeller draws a portrait of her life as a cowgirl, photographer, horse lover, columnist and agriculture advocate. You can find her talking about brandings on Twitter as @thesdcowgirl, chatting about gorgeous jewelry and barrel racing on Facebook or lovin’ on her horses at her blog TheSouthDakotaCowgirl.