#AgChat & #FoodChat

What are the #AgChat & #FoodChat Twitter Conversations?

#AgChat is a weekly moderated conversation on Twitter for people in the business of raising food, feed, fuel, fiber. It is a virtual venue for participants on Twitter to share viewpoints and ideas about the issues impacting agriculture advocacy, such as sustainability, water, communications, agronomy, animal welfare, USDA programs, mainstream media coverage and public perceptions of farming. The goal is to create an ongoing, open dialogue among the various players interested in agriculture and share tips and tricks for connecting with consumers.

#AgChat is the largest online Twitter community dedicated to creating conversation around agricultural issues. The chat has captured the attention of mainstream media and many agriculturists using social media. More than 12,000 people from 12 countries and 5 continents have participated in #AgChat.

A sister chat, known as “#FoodChat,” takes place on the third Tuesday of each month, in lieu of #AgChat, and is tailored more specifically to the interests of consumers, nutrition professionals, foodies and influencers of food choices. #FoodChat provides followers an opportunity to “meet a farmer” and also helps those in agriculture learn from consumers.

How do these chats work?

#AgChat and #FoodChat are a part of Twitter, a free social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read short messages known as “tweets.” Tweets are 140-character posts sent by each Twitter user to the author’s subscribers, or followers.

Each Tuesday, members of the #AgChat community are invited to convene online 8-10 p.m., Eastern for a “streaming” Twitter feed. Chats begin with 15 minutes of networking (please introduce yourself and your interest in agriculture as well as your name, brief job description), followed by questions the community sends to the moderator in advance on the topic of the week. The chat is fast-paced, insightful and, often, colorful. The final 5 minutes is reserved for “pitching.” Participants can plug their blog, site, product or ask for feedback on a business-related idea.

Who’s invited?

Anyone with an interest in the business of growing food, fuel, feed and fiber that is on Twitter. Followers include farmers, ranchers, moms, agronomists, agribusinesses, community garden supporters, equipment companies and anyone with an interest in farm and food. We welcome all viewpoints, encourage diversity in the community and value transparency.

We simply ask that you act in a professional manner by following the course of conversation without grandstanding or antagonizing. We will request that you introduce yourself in order to participate in the conversation or post replies. For example, “Hi #AgChat, I’m Jane Doe in San Diego and love to eat food, so want to learn more about #farms.” If you haven’t seen someone’s intro, don’t be afraid to ask them for it. We do suggest you only respond to people who are following the guidelines.

How do I get started?

  1. Visit Twitter.com and open account, if not already done.
  2. Complete your profile information.
  3. In the search field, enter the hashtag #AgChat or #FoodChat. You will then be watching a stream of tweets which include the hashtag #AgChat.
  4. Begin by starting a tweet in the field located in the upper-right hand corner of the web page. Introduce yourself including your connection to agriculture (if you eat, you have a connection) and location.
  5. Always remember to include the hashtag so other participants will see your tweets.
  6. When answering questions, always use the question number (i.e.: Q1, Q2…) in advance of your response. This assists our volunteers when archiving the conversations.

Here are a few tips:

  • Understand that there are third-party apps and sites such as TweetChat, TweetDeck, HootSuite and Twubs.com which can also be utilized when participating. These apps allow you to see the very, fast-paced conversation happening in real time. We recommend participating in a few chats before exploring third-party apps.
  • Stay on topic or ‘respect the chat’ as some like to say.
  • Aside from those tips, your best bet is to follow the rules of conversation. Engage, listen and talk (tweet, in this case). If you really like what someone else says, RT their info so your community can see it. If you need clarification, ask for it, as long as a ‘side conversation’ isn’t distracting to others using the tag.
  • Never be afraid to ask for help or simply tell us you are a newbie.

I don’t know what to say (tweet).

State your opinion, share a resource or simply say you don’t know, but would like to learn. Just as you wouldn’t toss your coffee and scream at another person in a coffee shop (we hope), we’re not asking you to agree with everyone in the chat. As long as you respond to the questions in a professional manner and stay on topic with your tweets, you’ll be in good shape.

Please don’t be frustrated if you’re not immediately acknowledged; the pace of the conversation is so fast that it’s easy to have introductions overlooked. Just keep chatting & others will engage with you. We’re a friendly group, but are sometimes on such a mission to keep up that we miss tweets! We do ask that you hold off on promoting your work, suggesting your own site or asking for specific feedback until pitch time, which happens at the end of the conversations.

What’s the most important thing to do as a participant?

Be yourself, participate transparently and respect others. It’s a professional conversation. Just as you wouldn’t come into a meeting or a party shouting (or at least we hope you wouldn’t), these chats work best by those engaging in dialogue. That doesn’t mean we expect everyone to agree, but simply engage in productive conversation.

Why the moderator?

The moderator’s role is to creative a productive conversation, much as a professional facilitator guides a meeting to a specific point. The moderator uses @agchat or @foodchat to post guidelines at the beginning of the chat, announce the topic, pose the questions and sometimes asks for clarification. Both the topic and the questions are submitted by the community. Moderating is not about ego; it is about organizing a productive chat that creates new ideas, shares best practices, promotes collaboration and highlights opportunities. Moderators are selected by the AgChat Foundation board of directors. If you are interested in assisting as a moderator, be sure to complete our moderator interest form by clicking here.

How did #AgChat and #FoodChat get started?

Michele Payn-Knoper, principal of Cause Matters Corp., Lebanon, Ind., founded #AgChat and #FoodChat in April 2009 as a part of her work to build stronger connections between the farm gate and consumer plate. Fast growth and pundit participation led Payn-Knoper to involve a wide variety of volunteers to support the community. The Foundation now manages the chats and is under the direction of Co-Chairpersons Joe O’Connell and Jan Hoadley.