Tag Archives: agriculture

Proud of my work and I’m going to shout it!

When you work in marketing/advertising/public relations, sharing work from your clients in your personal realms seems really self-serving. After all, most people can figure out really quick that you’re just plugging the company who ultimately funds your paychecks. I get that. But here’s the thing.

I’m really proud of the things I work on.

For nearly two years, my agency has been working hard on a rebranding project for the Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc. cattle division. Starting the beginning of February, the pieces that everyone has been putting their heart and soul into started getting introduced to the public, first at two veterinarian-specific conferences and then at NCBA. The branding philosophy is centered on preventing disease through improving nutrition, the environment, observing livestock and vaccinating, in order to minimize treatment and improve overall animal health.

Yes, it’s a corporate initiative. But, at the end of the day, isn’t disease prevention and healthy animals something we can all stand behind? I think so. And that’s why I’m so proud of the work we’re doing.

Here’s a bit of an overview of how BIVI is approaching animal health to prove that “prevention truly is the best medicine.” You can also check out BIVIPreventionWorks.com for more information.

Are you already implementing disease prevention strategies on your operation? What types of things do you do? Know of another example of corporate work/initiatives you’re proud of or impressed by? Would love to hear about it in the comments!

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Farm-y, Food-y Friday: Creating a multi-dimensional me

For those people who were avid readers of my blog, On the Journey, you may be wondering what on Earth I’m doing with this new, off-the-wall blog that has posts about movies and Broadway and whatever other random thing comes to the top of my head. You thought I was an agvocate, right? A farm blogger. A vocal part of agri-cult-ure. Well, I am.

But I’m also a lot more than that.

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Missing a friend and a great teacher

Growing up as a teachers’ kid, you quickly learn what makes a good teacher. A good teacher encourages you to think, challenges your beliefs and opinions and helps you gain more knowledge than you ever thought possible.

Chris Raines was a good teacher.

Dr. Chris Raines, 1981-2011

Now, I never sat in Chris’s classroom, but I know this is true. See, like so many others, I met Chris online through his Twitter “handle”  @iTweetMeat. From the get-go, I knew this guy was smart and witty. On so many occasions, he challenged my comments when he could have so easily passed them by. One of the first interactions I remember was when I made a comment about how farmers shoudn’t be held responsible for people who get sick from raw milk, because they knew that danger was there. Chris automatically came back at me, asking if that meant meat processors shouldn’t be held responsible for food poisoning because people should just cook it all the way? It was instances like this where he forced me to re-examine my beliefs, look at them from another angle, and learn something along the way. That’s why I know Chris was a good teacher in his “real life” job as a meat science professor at Penn State. I think he did things like that with his students every day.

Last night, Chris lost his life in a car accident and the online community of “AgChatters” and “Agvocates” lost a great friend. It’s amazing how close of a relationship you can form with someone in the digital space. I’ve spent my day randomly bursting into tears, despite the fact that my actual, in-person interactions with Chris were few. That doesn’t matter, though, because I will always remember his ability to teach us all, while making us smile at the same time. He will be sorely missed.

Is agvocacy pointless?

I was a little dismayed just now when, while skimming a post on Facebook, I saw someone post this:

Someone convince me all [our] discussion about food and farms is making a difference!

Now, as someone who has spent a lot of time having discussions about food production and farming, I got really disappointed that a comment like this could be coming from one of our own. Do we really think sharing our stories and talking to people about where their food comes from is a waste of time? Are we really so jaded by bad experiences that we think it isn’t worth it?

I sure hope not.

No matter what I hope for, though, I want to hear from others. Are you a non-farmer who thinks differently about agriculture because of something you learned from talking to a farmer? Are you a farmer who is more optimistic about our future because of an experience you had with someone who doesn’t farm, but wanted to learn more about where their food came from? Please help me feel a little better about all the hard work we do to “agvocate” – because I refuse to believe that it isn’t making a difference.

How much of a dialogue was it?

Like what seemed like everyone else in the agriculture world, I watched the Food Dialogues conversations both online and in person last Thursday. In addition to tuning in for the Washington DC panel, I was on the St. Paul campus at the University of Minnesota for a viewing party. I’m not sure whether my expectations for the event/day were high or low. The only thing I knew was that the day would pave a path for the future of USFRA (who organized Food Dialogues) — whether that path was challenging or smooth was what needed to be determined.

I’m not going to recap the whole conversation, because I think that’s been done and you can find recap videos on FoodDialogues.com. What I will do is add to the collection of observations, hoping that input from throughout the farming and non-farming community will continue to stretch our ability to interact.

Words matter. If we’re not using the right ones, we’re not having an inclusive dialogue.

I had a friend once tell me that they hated the phrase “need to be educated.” To her, educating someone is a one-way street. You don’t know something, and by darn, the other person is going to tell you exactly what you should think. It’s not interactive.

On the same token, the term “consumer” is one that automatically separates groups into an “us versus them” mentality. This is especially true in agriculture. Consumers are “those people” who consume goods (in our case, food products) without knowing or caring where they came from. “They” know nothing about farming.

Throughout the entire Food Dialogues conversation – both across the country and in the room where I sat in St. Paul – these words and phrases were abundant. We need to educate consumers. The answer to our problems is consumer education about modern farming methods. If we just talk with consumers and share our stories, we can educate consumers about what they don’t understand.

This drives me nuts.

If we don’t place priorities on using language that is interactive and inclusive, we’ve missed the whole point of a dialogue. We haven’t listened. We haven’t learned from each other. And we won’t change anything. Words matter. As the Food Dialogues movement moves on, we have to remember that or we’re wasting our time.

Reach beyond the choir. Did we do it?

There was a great push to have farmer involvement in the USFRA dialogues, both online and in person. I think this is great. However, from my observations, what was missing throughout the entire day was those on the other side of the conversation. Farmers were in abundance both in the audience, online and on panels, but I feel like the voice of the typical, everyday food purchaser was missing. Where’s the college student who has no money, but is trying to eat more than mac and cheese? Where’s the mom who dreads taking three kids into the grocery store, but knows it needs to be done? While we had a panel of experts who were friendly to agriculture, there was a noticeably absent voice from everyday America. In my opinion, if we just continue to talk to ourselves, this “movement” is not a movement at all. Rather, it’s just us taking four hours out of our day to make ourselves feel better.

A step in the right direction, but miles to go.

Overall, I thought the Food Dialogues were a step in the right direction. The agricultural community opened themselves up to a wider audience and, I think, genuinely wants to be a part of the conversation. However, if we don’t open ourselves up to the hard topics and genuinely have a dialogue about those, we’re not going to build any bridges. Someone described coverage of controversial topics on Thursday as infomercial-like. I’d say that’s pretty accurate. The same old talking points were covered multiple times. Only once did I hear someone say, “I’m going to talk about this on a personal level…”. I’m not saying we have to have an “I’m right in using _______ (fill in the blank with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, etc.)” answer – in fact, I’d rather we didn’t. I’m saying that we need to be able to to converse about those issues without throwing up the defensive wall and genuinely ask people why they hold the beliefs they do.

In order to continue having successful dialogues, conversations need to be filled with inclusive language and people on all sides of the food system. We also all need to have the understanding that every single one of us won’t have the same opinion — two small farmers have different ideas, two large farmers, two organic farmers, two butchers, two professors, two moms. We all come to the table with different beliefs and experiences. That’s why the root of conversations needs to be, “Why to you believe that _________?” and the question needs to be followed by genuine listening from all participants.

These are just my thoughts, though, and I know lots of people have already blogged about their feelings. Check out Michele’s and Jeff’s posts for some different opinions. What did you think about the Food Dialogues? Was it a step in the right direction? Was it the same old, same old? I’d love to hear others thoughts and keep the conversation flowing.

AgChat conference perfect for college aggies

Since I recently graduated from Michigan State (Go Green!) and just took an awesome full-time position a couple of days ago, I’d like to think that I’ve done a pretty good job at preparing for “the real world” and that I can offer some halfway decent advice to college students and recent graduates. My big piece of advice today for those college aggies out there: apply for the AgChat Foundation Agvocacy 2.0 Social Media Training Conference!

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A world of opportunities

I know I’ve been rather absent from the blog these past few weeks, but it has been absolutely crazy. This week, I will be making one of the most important decisions of my career — selecting my first job.

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Flooding and agriculture – Can't even imagine

My friend Janice has been using her blog to keep us up-to-date on the flooding of the Mississippi River over the past couple of weeks as its been affecting Memphis, where she lives. Thankfully, all of her family is alright and none of her possessions have been damaged. She’s been one of the lucky ones, though, and I’m keeping in my thoughts all of those people who have no home to go to now and are trying to figure out where to go next. I can’t even fathom what it’s like to be in that situation and hope everything turns out alright in the end.

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An early life crisis and the stress that ensues

To say something hasn’t been nagging at me for a while would be complete denial. The fact of the matter is, though, I have been really fearful to say anything for worry that people or — let’s face it — I would be disappointed in me. Well, I’ve said it out loud to a few people so I guess I’ve reached the point where I can say it online.

I’m not sure that I want to student teach.

Even considering not student teaching makes me feel guilty, like it’s somehow saying I don’t think being an ag teacher is a good job. That’s not the case at all. How could it be? My dad is an ag teacher; many of my mentors and friends are ag teachers. It’s an amazing job to have. Just maybe not the right job for me.

Now, none of this is to say that I won’t change my mind tomorrow or in a year or in five years. However, today and yesterday and for the last few months, I have felt as though life wants me to take another path.

For the past year (as many of you know), I’ve taken on several jobs/internships. Two of them have been very communications focused. I’ve also been doing some freelance writing work that I have really loved and, for the past three years, I’ve been involved in the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA). All of these areas are things that, when I think about turning them into a career in communications, I get excited about. I wish that same thing were true of teaching.

So it sounds like I’ve got it together, right? Wrong. It’s two weeks from graduation and I’m hurtling myself into the great unknown of job-hunting. I’m still keeping student teaching as an option, but – finally – I’m going to start seriously considering some positions with different groups in and out of the state. I want to look at for-profits and non-profits, corporate businesses and marketing/PR agencies. I’m going to keep my options wide open and try to figure out what’s best for me in the long run.

Unfortunately during this same time period, I have a ton of work due for school and projects for my various jobs going on everywhere. Just last night I ended up in tears, mainly from the stress of everything culminating at once. I’m definitely going to be relying on friends and family to talk me through all of this and reassure me that it’s going to be alright. I’ve got a long few months ahead of me and right now the path through the woods looks pretty dark and twisty. Here’s to hoping, though, that there’s light on the other side.

Ideas from our friends in the north!

For the past two days, I have been at the North American Leaders Session, which is a meeting hosted by the Center for Food Integrity designed to bring together leaders of livestock coalitions from across North America to meet and share ideas. Now, you’ll notice that I said North America and not just…well, America. We were really lucky to be joined by a group of great folks from Canada that shared some of their projects and challenges. You may or may not be surprised, but their challenges aren’t much different than ours here in the States and they brought some awesome ideas to the table.

Now, I tweeted about the fact that the Canadian contingent is doing some amazing things related to consumer-outreach and some people on Twitter expressed interest in what those ideas were. In an effort to both share some of those things with you and as a way for me to remember them 🙂 here’s some of the ones I found extremely interesting:

Farmers Feed Cities
This is a program mainly funded by the grain organization in Canada, but has implications for all farmers. Somewhat like the “Farmers Care” program in Michigan, Farmers Feed Cities is designed to raise awareness and education about how farming affects all of us, not just those in rural areas. What I liked most about the program was the material promotions that they’ve put together. They’ve done what I think is a great job with getting the notion of “Farmer Feed Cities” in front of a lot of people. They even gave us a window decal that I fully intend on putting in my car and a pin that’s going on my backpack! You can learn more about what they’re doing on their website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Ontario Farm Animal Council (OFAC)
Throughout Canada, there are Farm Animal Councils. The Ontario branch has done a couple of projects that I thought were really neat. They have put together a 40+ page booklet about Canadian agriculture (which is not all that different from the US) called “The Real Dirt on Farming” that they’ve distributed all through the province. It goes to media members, legislators and–something a little different–doctors and other offices. The booklet covers a ton of common topics and is very good at promoting and explaining all types of agricultural production.

They also have created a website where people can take a virtual tour of farms, which range from egg producers to pig farms and orchards. Heather Hargrave, who works for OFAC, said they’d like to get to the point where they produce a modern/conventional, organic and grassfed video for each species that helps show the differences and similarities between different production systems.

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS)
Saskatchewan’s branch of the Farm Animal Council has done some great projects promoting the message that farmers care about their animals (and subsequently the environment and their families). They partook in a very large billboard campaign throughout the province (the largest agricultural media campaign in North America) with the simple message “On our farm…we care.” Billboards featured young farmers and farm families in a variety of animal industries. They partnered with a photojournalist who took the photos, which helped the promotion of the message through journalism circles and built great partnerships with the different commodity organizations to get them done.

They also chose to put together a puppet show–Tales from the FACS Farm–that is used in elementary schools throughout the province to teach kids about animal agriculture. Adele Buettner, who works with FACS, said they hesitated at doing this because they’re not big fans of talking animals (humanizing them) in any way, but also said it ended up being a great choice because of the educational value. They work with a professional puppeteer company and put on the shows at as many schools and libraries as they possibly can during Education Week.

Sometimes we forget about how important it is to get fresh ideas to promote our industries and build trust between food producer and food purchaser. This chance to hear from other people in the US and Canada was a great opportunity for me to think about what we can do in Michigan and throughout the ag industry across the country.

Do you have any neat projects in your state or country that promote agriculture to non-farmers? What do you do? How do you secure funding? Have you done any projects that crashed and burned?!