Tips for effective agriculture advocacy

Today, information is everywhere, and not to mention easily accessible. Maybe a little too easily accessible–a quick Google search is all it takes for me to learn the random fact that Amy Poehler’s favorite TV show is Judge Judy. Now you know, too. What does this mean for agriculture advocacy?

It’s not just celebrities that can find their lives invaded by society’s constant need for news. As more people become interested in learning about the food they eat, farmers and everyone involved in food production are seeing an increased interest in their professions. This interest can drive important conversations about modern agricultural practices. Everyone deserves to understand where their food comes from.

Sources

However, we know that there are non-credible sources that exist for nearly every topic. Farming is no different. A ‘crowd’ of information can come from sources that are misinformed, misdirected, or even just outdated. It’s up to agriculturalists to be the loud voices for current, factual representations of what food production looks like.

I say this knowing that it’s not always easy to know how to advocate for your beliefs. In this sense, you can let the job advocate for itself! How can it be that easy? Consider that we know less than 2% of Americans are directly involved in production agriculture. That leaves 98% of the country with little to no exposure to farming, which could make information about agriculture from an outdated source seem realistic. Instead, we can share real farming transparently to answer many of the questions today’s consumer might have.

It might hurt but it’s still true!

Being Loud Among the Crowd

One of the easiest ways to promote agriculture to those around you is to use today’s newspaper: social media. Farm Facebook pages, blogs, Instagram accounts, and even ag podcasts are excellent resources to show the world how your farm or ranch helps provide for the world. As you start your agriculture advocacy, here are a few tips:

1. Pick a platform

It can be exciting to get to share your passion! You want to start strong, but burnout is a real thing. Try choosing one platform to focus on at first. Facebook is often a good choice because it’s usually familiar to a wide range of people and you can easily share posts with your personal friends to gain a following. Also, be sure to use a site that matches the content you want to share. Cute farm pics? Try Instagram. More writing and stories? A blog might be a good fit.

Agriculture Advocacy
Using Instagram to share a picture and a point.

2. Stick to a schedule

So you have the page–now what? You’ll gain a community by interacting with the website, and that means posting! To keep yourself accountable, set a schedule of when you’ll always post. This can be every day or just a couple times each week. You can share about farming practices, a favorite cow, or even just a quick picture of what you did that day. Real, informational captions are worth their weight in gold. Check out one of my favorite farmer pages to get some content ideas.

3. Engage actively

Posting is awesome, but we can dive even deeper to share about agriculture. Effective communication is a two-way street. For social media, that means taking the time to respond to questions and comments from our followers, sharing ideas with other ag advocates, and supporting all aspects of our agricultural industries. It means being a human, even if that’s just sharing someone else’s post that you enjoy! Your page can be a great way to connect with farming and non-farming friends alike.

4. Don’t get discouraged

Explaining your way of life on social media makes you very vulnerable, and it can be scary. There are sure to be some folks that disagree with what you share, and that’s okay. Remember that the point of sharing what you do is to create (respectful) conversation that both parties can grow from. You can use industry resources to build that dialogue: check out Chicken Check In, American Dairy Association, Beef Checkoff, Poultry Feeds America, and Pork Checkoff, just to name a few. Still, just as in life, sometimes it’s necessary to walk away from a conversation. It’s the positive interactions that will make a difference for your industry.

Chicken agriculture advocacy
One-stop shop for eveything about broiler chickens.

With these tips in mind, we can all be more prepared to share what we love. We’ve heard time and time again that farmers need to share their story–it’s true, in order to put out reliable, real food information to everyone looking for it. Instead of letting others write that story, let’s write it ourselves!

All posts are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of the Animal Ag Alliance.

Vote: “A Seat At The Table” Farmer Photo Contest

The entries are in for the “A Seat At The Table” farmer photo contest! Take a look at all the photos and vote for your absolute favorite in the poll at the end of this post.

Voting is open until Friday, February 22 at noon eastern time. The winners will be announced that same day.

Here are the prizes up for grabs:

  • First place: Free registration to the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2019 Stakeholders Summit, $300 travel stipend and a two-night stay at the Summit hotel
  • Second place: Free Summit registration and a two-night stay at the Summit hotel
  • Third and fifth place: Free Summit registration
Julie Walker, Tennessee dairy farmer

When I’m seated at a table, MILK always has a place on the menu! Whether paired with a casual meal or the fanciest of plates, let others see it’s simple goodness! Give real milk, from cows, a place at your table! #AAA19

Melinda Bastian, Missouri beef rancher

Gathering at the table to discuss sustainability for the current and future generations. #AAA19

Wanda Patsche, Minnesota pig farmer

Here is my seat at the table! #AAA19


Amanda Freund, Connecticut dairy farmer

When you have so many people over to dinner, you move the meal out to the greenhouse and set up a model train set to pass the butter and condiments 🙂 #AAA19

Nicole Small, Kansas beef rancher

The @animalagalliance summit is coming up in May. It is one of my favorite conferences to attend. #AAA19 strives to keep animal agriculture off the chopping block of those who are generations removed from the farm.

[poll id="3"]

“A Seat At The Table” Farmer Photo Contest

Vote now!

Some are round, set for five with a dog underneath waiting for something to drop. Some are rectangular, feature homemade pies and have a highchair at the end. Others have take-out set for two and are in front of a television. Although each may look different, the table is where we come together to connect, to engage with each other and to hear from and be heard.

If you’re a farmer or rancher, we want to see what a seat at your table looks like! Enter the Animal Agriculture Alliance‘s “A Seat At The Table” Farmer Photo Contest for your chance to win a seat at the 2019 Stakeholders Summit. You’ll learn about key issues facing food and agriculture and gain the supportive network and tools you need for success on your farm. So how do you enter?

How do I enter?

  1. Take a photo of a seat at your table
  2. Post it on Instagram or Facebook
  3. Tag the photo to @animalagalliance
  4. Use the hashtag #AAA19
  5. Contest entry ends Sunday, February 10 at midnight Sunday, February 17 at midnight!
A Seat At The Table Farmer Photo Contest

How can I win?

Get creative! Take a photo worth hanging in an art gallery and pair it with a clever caption. The top photos selected by the Animal Agriculture Alliance team to be eligible for public voting. Check back here on Monday, February 18 to vote for your favorite! The five farmers whose photos receive the most votes will win a free registration to the 2019 Summit, set for May 8-9 in Kansas City, Missouri. We will announce the winners on Friday, February 22 at noon eastern time.

In addition to a free registration, the first-place winner will receive a $300 travel stipend and a two-night stay at the Summit hotel. The second-place winner will also have their hotel covered.

  • First place: Free registration, $300 travel stipend and a two-night stay at the Summit hotel
  • Second place: Free registration and a two-night stay at the Summit hotel
  • Third – fifth place: Free registration

Before the photo contest deadline was extended, two farmers submitted their best photos and will receive a free registration, but will still compete for the top spots through public voting.

The annual Summit brings top thought leaders in the industry together to discuss hot-button issues and out-of-the-box ideas. The 2018 event was the largest yet, attracting 305 attendees. To learn more, visit the Summit website.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram or Facebook.

Some of the best agriculture podcasts

One of my favorite things to do while working in the office, taking a long drive or cooking dinner is to listen to the latest podcasts. People and news outlets use podcasts to share relevant information, ideas and interesting stories. Luckily, that has transcended into the agriculture industry as well! Recently, I went on a mission to find some of the best agriculture-friendly podcasts. Throw on your headphones and check them out…

Future of AgricultureFuture of Agriculture

This podcast, run by Tim Hammerich from AgGrad, looks into diversity related to agriculture and agribusiness. With over 100 episodes, the podcast covers all avenues of agriculture, from nutrient management to urban agriculture to grassfed beef. If that’s not enough to make you want to tune in, episode 48 features Alliance Vice President of Communications, Hannah Thompson-Weeman!

What the Cluck!What the Cluck

This is a brand new podcast developed by the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota. Host, Steve Olson, brings on farmers and others engaged with the industry. They discuss what it looks like to raise healthy poultry and get them from the barn to the table. You can find the first episode of the podcast here.

Story of AgThe Story of Agriculture

As an Ohio native, I love this podcast because it is run by fellow Ohioans, B.J. and Marlene Eick and their company Herdmark Media. The podcast interviews people engaged in different facets of the agriculture industry. Episodes feature food scientists, communication directors, farm broadcasters, college professors and more! Side Note: I’d suggest checking out episode 20, which features also our own Hannah Thompson-Weeman! (She’s a podcast celebrity!)

POPagriculturePOPagriculture

If you only have 20 minutes to spare, then tune into POPagriculture! In partnership with the CropLife Foundation, this podcast was launched in 2017 by plant pathologist Steve Savage. Savage combines an interest in pop culture and his more than 35 years of experience in the agriculture industry to discuss today’s agricultural systems in 15-minute episodes.

FarmHerShining Bright

This podcast is great for young women, like myself, who are interested in entering the industry because it shines a light on women who are excelling in agriculture. Hosted by FarmHer Founder, Marji Guyler-Alaniz, episodes of the podcast feature women ranchers, entrepreneurs, communicators and agricultural leaders. The FarmHer mission is to “update the image of agriculture to include women.”

Beltway BeefBeltway Beef

Similiar to POPagriculture, this podcast is great if you only have a few minutes to spare. Beltway Beef is hosted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and touches on policy changes and legislation that impacts the beef industry. The podcast features ranchers, policy directors, NCBA staff and others. As a beef enthusiast, I enjoy these short episodes because they keep me up to date each week on what is impacting the industry!

modern acreThe Modern Acre

If you enjoy learning about new innovations and technology related to agriculture than this is the podcast for you! Hosted by brothers, Tyler and Tim Nuss, the podcast kicked off in February 2018. Episodes feature students, farmers, entrepreneurs and others who are working to build a strong agricultural business. The goal of the podcast is to share value-added insight for anyone involved with agriculture.

Tune into even more podcasts!

Since I didn’t go into depth about every agriculture-friendly podcast I enjoy, below are a few more you may want to check out! These can all be found in the podcast app and/or on iTunes.

Shark Farmer: hosted by Rob Sharkey.

Agriculture Proud: hosted by Ryan Goodman.

Farm to Table Talk: hosted by Rodger Wasson.

Beef Pros: hosted by Ben Spitzer and Garrett Thomas.

Poultry Health Today: sponsored by Zoetis.

Ag News Daily: hosted by Mike Pearson and Delaney Howell.

Farmers to follow on social media

Farmers know people are hungry to know more about how food gets from the farm to the fork. Here are dairy, pig, poultry, sheep and cattle farmers you can follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get an inside look at how livestock and poultry are raised!

Dairy

  1. Modern-day Farm Chick
  2. The Farmer’s Wifee
  3. Farmer Bright
  4. Dairy Carrie
  5. Gilmer Dairy Farm
  6. Hastings Dairy
  7. Eastview Farm Dairy
  8. Matt Nuckols
  9. Jessica Peters
  10. Tillamook Dairy Farmer
  11. Snider’s Dairy

For more information about dairy, check out dairygood.org and search #UndeniablyDairy online!

Pig

  1. Cristen Clark
  2. Brad Greenway & Peggy Greenway 
  3. Minnesota Farm Living
  4. Drew Kuhn
  5. Lauren Schwab
  6. Erin Brenneman
  7. Lukas Fricke
  8. Jennifer Osterholt

Visit realpigfarming.com and search #RealPigFarming on social media for more about pig farming!

Poultry

  1. Jennifer Rhodes
  2. Lauren Arbogast
  3. Matt Lohr
  4. Jennifer Odom
  5. Daniel Hayden
  6. Justin Bowman
  7. Shaunee Cyrus
  8. Jenell Eck
  9. Meschke Poultry
  10. Martin Van Zandwyk 
  11. Jacqueline Gingerich 
  12. Ryan Kuntze
  13. Nicole Stewardson 
  14. Jason DeVet 
  15. Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch

Want to know more about chicken farming? Chicken CheckIn is the place to go! For more about turkey and eggs go to Minnesota Turkey and Incredible Edible Egg.

Sheep

  1. Emily Buck
  2. Brad & Jenny Osguthorpe
  3. Brittany Cole Bush
  4. North Star Sheep Farm
  5. Ryan Mahoney
  6. J12 Ranch and Livestock
  7. Kristen Local-Farm Mom
  8. Farm Babe
  9. Sara Hollenbeck
  10. Cylon Rolling Acres (goats!)

You can find even more information about sheep and lambs at American Lamb!

Beef Cattle

  1. Terryn Drieling
  2. Brandi Buzzard Frobose
  3. Kellie Lasack
  4. Sierra Blachford
  5. Joan Ruskamp
  6. Alison McGrew
  7. Kacy Atkinson
  8. Tierra Kessler
  9. Debbie Lyons-Blyth
  10. Whitney Klasna

For more about everything beef, go to beefitswhatsfordinner.com!

Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg!

Mr. Zuckerberg,

As champions for farmers and ranchers, we know sharing the stories of the people and families who raise and produce our food is key to helping consumers better understand where their food comes from. We are excited to see you joining us as you visit farm families across the country and share their stories on Facebook.

As you know, there is a lot of misinformation being shared online about food and agriculture – often times by people generations removed from agriculture. We appreciate you sharing how much hard work, dedication and passion farmers and ranchers have for raising livestock while feeding families everywhere.

The Alliance is no stranger to receiving negative comments from groups that are opposed to animal agriculture as we work to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. We’ve noticed that you are now receiving some of the same comments on your posts and standing strong in the face of their tactics is not always easy. The Alliance team and the farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, animal health companies and other farm organizations we represent want you to know how much your recognition and appreciation of the people who grow and raise our food means to each of us.

We sincerely thank you for being a supportive advocate of the agriculture community!

 

 

Using Snapchat to share agriculture’s story

The Animal Agriculture Alliance engages food chain influencers and promotes consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. Social media is one way we share information and facts about how farmers and ranchers care for their animals and help feed families. We are active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and now Snapchat! Our username is animalag.

Snapchat is one of the newest social media channels with more than 100 million users. We are excited to use this new platform to make sure animal agriculture’s voice is heard and to reach even more people who may not be familiar with how delicious meat, milk and eggs get to their plates. Basically, the app allows users to take short videos and pictures to share with followers, but the content only remains visible for 24 hours.

The Alliance will use Snapchat to take our followers on farm tours and conferences we attend throughout the year, meet farmers and share trivia facts. Recently, our director of communications attended the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture annual conference in Nebraska and shared photos and videos from the conference where she had the opportunity to tour a dairy farm and a cow/calf beef farm.snapchat
Starting in the next few weeks, the Alliance will start Trivia Tuesdays and Thursdays on Snapchat about animal care, sustainability, meat matters and fun facts about pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys and all the other barnyard animals!

If you’re on Snapchat, here are a few other accounts to follow:

  • Gilmerdairy – Will Gilmer, Alabama dairy farmer
  • Hilljay45 – Jay Hill, New Mexico farmer
  • Nationalffa – National FFA
  • Realpigfarming – Real Pig Farming
  • Cristencclark – Cristen Clark, Food & Swine
  • Hmiller361 – Hannah Miller, social media guru on agriculture
  • Aggrad – Ag Grad, a career resource for college students and recent grads

For how to effectively use each social media platform to promote agriculture, check out the Alliance’s social media guide, The Power of Social Media in Agriculture: A Guide to Social Media Success.

 

Announcing the new and improved Animal Ag Engage blog!

If you are one of our regular readers, welcome back! For those of you who are new, we’re glad you’re here! The Alliance blog, formerly known as “Real Farmers Real Food,” is now called “Animal Ag Engage.” Along with the new name, the blog has a refreshed design and we are eager to share more posts about hot topics in animal agriculture!

cropped-blog-header-image.pngWhy the new look?

The original blog was first published in 2014 and has since earned almost 50,000 views on more than 65 posts. Our previous blog had a look of its own with a separate logo and theme from the Alliance. We want readers to identify our blog with the Animal Agriculture Alliance, so now the blog matches the Alliance colors and overall look along with a similar title.

In addition to not only looking more like a blog from the Alliance, the new name better represents the content we share to fulfill our mission.

AAA_group_con-eng-pro_4COur mission

The Animal Agriculture Alliance is a non-profit organization working to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. The three pillars included in our mission are connect, engage and protect. We connect industry stakeholders to arm them with responses to emerging issues. We engage food chain influencers and promote consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. We protect by exposing those who threaten our nation’s food security with damaging misinformation.

The role of our blog perfectly falls under the engage part of our mission, so the new name came naturally.

People want to be engaged, not educated

Before the Alliance was rebranded a few years ago, our mission included educate in the place of engage. After researching how to best communicate with the public we realized that consumers don’t want to be educated because that implies that they are uneducated. They instead would rather be engaged in a two-way conversation and through that process of engagement they may learn a thing or two – and get their opinions heard as well.

The goal of the blog is to offer a platform to engage with people about animal agriculture issues that may be controversial, or frequently misunderstood.

Join the conversation!

We encourage you to follow our new blog (click the follow button at the top right of this page!) and join in on the conversation by commenting on our posts. We welcome civil dialogue and encourage readers to ask questions. This blog is a great spot to receive answers from farmers, ranchers and industry leaders about where our food comes from. Take a look around and let us know what you think!

Social media: more than just a post or tweet

When Facebook debuted I was a freshman in high school and the social media platform was all any one could talk about at the lunch table. Everything revolved around the conversations being held on Facebook. I found it quite annoying and was hoping it was just a fad. I held off joining the Facebook brigade until I was a senior in high school – the only reason I signed up for an account is because my mom insisted I get one since I was moving away for college.

Fast forward nine years and I manage social media for the Animal Agriculture Alliance. I won’t lie –  I still find social media to be annoying some days, but it is such a powerful communication tool that I find it to be more fascinating.

The power of a post

The Bachelor Farmer

The Bachelor Farmer

What’s amazing about social media is how many people one person is able to reach with one post – whether it’s with 140 characters, a graphic, video or blog post like I’m writing now. One person can potentially reach millions of people without leaving the comfort of their desk, couch or favorite coffee shop.  This can give someone a megaphone to get their message heard who may not have a voice otherwise.

In regards to agriculture, social media provides an outlet for producers, farmers and ranchers to share what they are most passionate about – providing a safe and affordable food supply for our great nation.

By managing the day-to-day social media at the Alliance, one of my favorite things to see, and hope to see every time I post, is engagement from not only consumers who are curious about modern agriculture, but having our posts provide an outlet for farmers and producers to chime in and either answer questions or share what they do on their farm. From what I can see, consumers generally appreciate when their questions are answered by farmers and this helps build on the trust that most people already have in America’s food supply.

Personally, my favorite platforms are Twitter and Snapchat. Some may argue that Snapchat isn’t a true social media platform, but it allows users to share a message like all the other platforms and I’d like to applaud them for one of their recent messages or “stories” as they are called. Snapchat is all about sharing quick photos or videos with your friends or followers. The trick is that the content disappears after just a few seconds. The platform sometimes features “stories” that combine posts from users at the same event, in the same place or with a theme in common.

IMG_0737Farm Life Snaps

A week or so ago, Snapchat put out a story titled “Farm Life” and it was awesome to say the least. The stories included farmers from across the country sharing a few seconds of their day. My favorite was the video of the cow giving birth – why? Imagine how many people have actually seen a cow give birth – not many I’d argue, but thanks to Snapchat they were able to see it whether they wanted to or not.

This story allowed people removed from agriculture to see just a few things that American farmers do every day to keep food on our plates.

In case you missed the snaps, I’ve included some screenshots throughout this blog post. The farmer from the last season of The Bachelor even made an appearance! The only part I didn’t like was when it all disappeared, but hey that’s Snapchat for you, right?

More than just a post, tweet…or snap!

If you’re not active on social media because you find it annoying or don’t want to listen to people complain, I understand (really I do), but there is so much more to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat than just a post. Social media gives everyone a voice, but also an avenue to connect with people and ideas that he/she may not be introduced to otherwise. It is important that the agriculture community is one of the voices being heard.IMG_0738

We all know that the opposite side has a big voice and is more than happy to share their version of agriculture’s story so we need to be out there reaching the consumers and media that want a truthful, factual answer about where their food comes from and how it’s produced.

There are organizations, such as Farm Bureaus, checkoff organizations and even the Alliance that work to spread factual information and engage with the media and consumer groups about agriculture, but hearing from the individual farm families that are on the farm every day is what leaves a lasting impression on the public in my opinion.

If you’re just starting out on social media and could use a few pointers or would like to strategize on how you can be the best advocate, reference the Alliance’s social media guide which outlines all the major platforms and what types of messages are ideal for each.

Oh and Snapchat, feel free to do more “farm life” snaps!

 

“Agvocation” Defined: A Political Junkie’s Perspective on the Future of Agricultural Social Media

My steer Dio and me after a big showmanship win in October 2014!

My steer Dio and me after a big showmanship win in October 2014!

Before I get into the nerdy stuff, let me introduce myself. My name is Jennifer Weinberg and I am studying Political Communication at The George Washington University. My family and I own a small beef cattle operation in Central New Jersey and have been members of both the feedlot and show cattle industries since the early 2000’s. I came to DC knowing that I would find a way to fuse my drives for the law, politics and agriculture into a solid undergraduate experience. That’s how I landed myself at the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

My degree in Political Communication is helpful in analyzing agricultural marketing and social media. Long story short: anti-industry, activists, opposition groups- whatever you call them- are doing a much better communicating than us. I am NOT saying that what they are communicating is in any way representative of American agriculture. What I am saying is that the opposition groups have done a much better job transforming our practices into their versions of reality and proposing it as truth than we have at showing and explaining our practices to consumers.

The key ideas:

  1. Specific arguments/sides are marketed through frames.  As described by Dr. Robert Entman, one of the chief scholars in the Political Communications field, frames are the lenses of how communicators present the information about ideas. Like the way photographers manipulate lighting to take professional pictures, successful communicators in any field bend the light in ways most favorable to their cause. This leads us to our second term: constructed realities.

Frames have 4 central goals/ steps:

  1. Problem definition: (bringing attention to an issue/ threat)
  2. Causal Analysis: (who/ what is responsible for the problem)
  3. Moral Judgment: (how people should feel about the issue)
  4. Remedy Solution: (what should be done to fix the problem/ end the threat)
  1. Constructed Reality:  The four steps of framing create the overall perception of truth on a certain topic. There is no condition that demands a constructed reality has to be truth as that up to individual opinions. In sum, constructed realities are comprised of a collection of arguments that are presented (framed) in certain ways.

The constructed reality being created by activist groups about American agriculture is that food comes from large factory farms that mistreat animals and simply pump products out like on a conveyor belt leaving animals in pain and fear. They do it by framing ideas such as animal welfare by selecting a few images, misrepresenting them (through strategic frames) and claiming them as truths (constructed realities).

  1. The Role Emotion Plays in Successful Communication. In his book, The Political Brain, Drew Westen has one central point: average Americans do not care about facts, figures and statistics when formingdecisions. Instead, they care about how they feel towards a particular issue. Opposition groups use emotional images in their advertisements, and people are attentive to them. Ultimately this emotional-appeal strategy has given opposition groups a huge edge over the agriculture industries who are left trying to use numbers and statistics to defend themselves.

If we want to become better agricultural communicators we need to start by acknowledging the terms of how successful communication is transferred to the public. By using the fundamentals of political communication, I think we can all become better communicators on every platform.