Monday, February 3, 2014

Building my Agvocacy Arsenal with the AgChat Foundation

It was exactly this time last year that I was feeling incredibly excited about agvocacy and the role that my blog could play. After the release of Dodge's 2013 Superbowl commercial, I felt even more energized to continue to reach out to the general public through my writing and social media. Well my energy this year hasn't come from the superbowl, but from attending the AgChat Foundation's 2014 Northwest Regional Agvocacy Conference.

I had seen the conference promoted earlier before Christmas, but then had forgotten about it. After Christmas in the Country, my new friend Jenny from The Magic Farmhouse, who happened to be presenting at the conference, encouraged me to attend. This year's regional conference was held in Portland, and being so close to home I couldn't pass up the opportunity. A huge thank you to Jenny for reminding me, I am so glad I participated!

The AgChat Foundation's mission is "Empowering a connected community of Agvocates", how great to see that alive and thriving. The conference welcomed people from across the country with all backgrounds of ag and levels of social media use. To see the connections forming and ideas and energy flowing was truly inspiring. Agvocacy is in good hands!  

The conference opened with Greg Satrum of Willamette Egg Farms, a thrid genereation family owned egg farm, talking of their proactive use of the media. This switch to transparency in the egg world was something that had never been opened to the public before. But they have used this to manage and protect their company's image and promote the industry's practices during a time when the spot light was brightly shown on hen-welfare. I think that this rings true to all sectors of agriculture; Farmer's are now only 2% of the population, and the other 98% is sometimes up to 6 generations removed from any kind of farming. With that kind of gap there are bound to be questions, it is now just a part of our jobs to offer that transparency to the public.

My next stop on the conference was a trip to Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center. There the goal is to Advance Northwest Foods. And they are doing just that, through research, exports, product development they help local food companies. One interesting research area they are currently involved in is the development of RFID labels for products. Radio Frequency Identification is the same technology that is being used in the cattle world for id tags. It all comes down to traceability in the cattle world, but in the world of labeling it is opening a whole new window to efficiency. Radio Frequency can be read by a wand merely waved through the air, think of the speed a task like inventory could be increased with this technology. That side was exciting, but I found most interesting the support and services they can offer to start up companies. From batch measurement conversions, nutrition labeling, packaging, shelf life testing and ingredient supplier connections they are the perfect go to for anyone developing a new product. If our dream ever comes to light, they may very well be a resource we utilize! One other interesting part of the center was their sensory lab where they do research and product testing for larger companies. They are always looking for taste testers, which I think would be a fun endeavor, I might have to sign up!

We finished up the first day with dinner at Meriwether's Restaurant; a farm to fork in Portland's northwest industrial district. This quint and cozy restaurant was full of good food, but the highlight for me was connecting with many of the other attendees. The conversations flowed as easily as the great beer and wine and I now have a connection to many new sectors of agriculture. We can always learn from each other and I find it invaluable to have sources I can ask my questions from. That is the whole point of this agvocacy world, to have reliable sources you can come to with your questions.

The next day provided break out sessions to build our skills. The first one I attended was put on by my new friend Jenny  who is also a part of the Agchat Foundation about building your online community. It's all about connections and using other areas of your life to connect and promote your work. By using your interests outside of your ag world you can connect to a larger audience. These commonalities with this different group of people can help to bring them in as followers and readers of your work that is agvocacy related. I feel like I have a somewhat good handle on this as I also blog about my life as a mom and my passions within that area as well. But I definitely could use more promotion in these groups through myself and my social media platforms.

Next up was Personal Branding by Mark Gale of Charleston|Orwig who is a weatlth of communications knowledge. His message was making a "brand" for yourself, making yourself identifiable to your followers in just a couple of words. His session has left me with the biggest questions of how I would brand myself in a couple of words. As a blogger I really am "selling myself", don't take that the wrong way, but as a reader you are here to read my work. I feel I need to work on packaging myself and my message a little better so it's easy to promote! Again it comes back to being genuine and true to myself, my values and my other interests that can play into developing my brand.

Lastly I acquired some amazing tools to measure the numbers and if this is really reaching anyone in What is MY Impact put on by one of ag's "expert" agvocate's Ryan Goodman of Agriculture Proud. I have so many new tools to help aid in writing my posts, promoting my posts and measuring who it's reaching and where they came from. All of these new tools were things I had never heard of, and as I consider myself pretty technology challenged, I was excited to have help in these areas. Ryan really is an expert blogger and has done the whole world of agriculture a favor by doing what he does. If you haven't, you really should check out his blog.

In closing KayDee Gilkey spoke over lunch about building a relationship with your local media. I missed most of her message, but it came across as don't be afraid to open yourself, your message and your farm to the media as well. Whether it be in print, radio or television they can be a huge asset in telling our story. Which can make a huge difference when falsities need to be put to rest. KayDee also offered herself as a resource to help in dealing with media situations, I can see her as a huge asset and great name to have.  I know I have enjoyed reaching out to our local media in the last couple of years and should work harder on building those relationships.

Myself and the famous Dairy Carrie
 The whole two days could come down to building relationships. I had a chance to talk some more with Ryan and the "dairy blogger expert" Carrie, better known as Dairy Carrie that morning during breakfast. Their reach and the number of followers they both have astounds me. They do such a great job of promoting their areas of agriculture and truly do all farmers credit with their work. And they were more then happy and willing to answer my questions about their success. And that's what it all comes down to, supporting each other in this "job" to connect to the average person. We all have a story to tell to by supporting and helping each other we can have even greater success. The AgChat Foundation is a huge asset to this community of agvocates and an invaluable resource. I look forward to keeping up with all the new people I met and supporting each other!

As I side note I did all this with my 3week old new little farmer in tow! Luckily he was a good sport and I don't even think too disruptive! I was a little hesitant about attending with him, but I am so glad I did. It was a wonderful conference!

AgChat's youngest Conference Attendee



  1. Thank You for the blog follow and I look forward to reading yours as well. Sorry we didnt get to chat more at the meeting but your dedication and well behaved young son was very impressive!

    1. Thanks Larry! It definitely was great to meet so many people from all over.