Category Archives: Social Media

5 Online Tools to Build your Farm or Ranch Business

Sometimes in the rush and routine for everything, it can be easy for us to forget that not everyone is comfortable with or knows just how to get started in social media, or with any online tools for that matter. In my article for Progressive Forage Grower magazine this month, I’ve shared 5 tips to get you started building your online presence in a way to build your business.

Do me a favor and head on over to Progressive Forage Grower and read the article. Then chime in with your suggestion in the comments section and share it with your friends and family!

Online tools for farm and ranch businesses

Online tools for forage growers

When was the last time you Googled the name of your farm or business? Chances are something appeared in the results. In agriculture circles, you often hear about the importance of online and social media presence in the context of advocacy and connecting with consumers for conversations centered on our food supply.

The value of these online tools may often be overlooked or underestimated for farmers and agriculture producers who have little to no direct contact with food consumers; producers like much of the Progressive Forage Grower audience. However, there are advantages to being present online and engaging in the conversations that may benefit your bottom line.

Make your website informative and engaging
Your potential customers are likely looking online for information on future purchases, which may include anything from grass seed to bales of hay. Make sure your online presence visibly provides information about your business, contacts and resources that your audience will find useful. Engaging content such as Frequently Asked Questions or providing the latest markets or mobile tools your potential customers can utilize will reflect well on your business and bring your audience back for another visit.

Utilize social media to build connections
Building online connections with peers in the industry, potential customers, and potential suppliers is a valid reason to join social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Look up conversations in your respective business area through Facebook pages, or follow Twitter conversations using hashtags (search terms) like #forages or #agchat. It’s similar to meeting people in the local coffee shop, only the tables aren’t restricted to your hometown.

Learn from other conversations
There is great value in listening to conversations occurring on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and open forums. I have learned more about other sectors of agriculture through engaging in social media conversations than I ever would have learned otherwise. This in turn helps me to understand more about my role in agriculture and discover tools that producers are using in other regions of the country that can adapt to my own.

Utilize images and video to convey your message
By far, the most popular form of media consumed online is in visual formats. Farms, agricultural landscapes and community events are the perfect opportunity to capture information in visual, audio, and digital formats. Capturing your audience’s short attention spans by sharing information through video and photos is not only more effective, it may also be easier than sitting down to write up a 500-word essay for every bit of information you want to share.

Contribute to other conversations
Marie Bowers Stagg, featured earlier in Progressive Forage Grower, works with her father in Oregon’s Willamette Valley on the family’s grass seed farm. As she describes it, even though food shoppers at the retail level may not directly consume your product, you still play an integral part in the food supply chain.

According to Marie, “The grass we produce is integral part of getting steak, lamb chops and milk to the dinner table. Online I have been able to connect with producers and consumers of meat and dairy. I learn more about information they want to know and hopefully they understand a little bit more about how food arrives at their table.”

Online platforms are here to stay as a means of communication and sourcing information. Joining the conversation and making sure your web presence reflects your business well is one step in making sure you are keeping up with the pace.  FG

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How to lose an argument on food and agriculture topics

how to lose an argument in food and agriculture conversationsA few weeks back, I shared several lessons learned while sticking my neck out and engaging in discussions centered around food and agriculture topics. Today, I share a few lessons learned by failure; sometimes my own.

  1. Assuming science will give us all the answers; it only gives us some of the answers. Pick a topic, any topic. Chances are you can find “scientists” on either side of the issue. Many people in the general public do not trust science or believe it can be bought-off. Often times, questions may be more about the ethics than the science.
  2. Using economics as the justification for all of our practices. If you own a business or depend on something for your livelihood, chances are who know what makes sound economic sense. “Of course we treat our cows well or they wouldn’t produce for us,” probably doesn’t convey the right message to a non-farm consumer. Making more money and welfare of animals/environment doesn’t always go hand in hand.
  3. Assuming that you have to speak up in defense of all agricultural practices. Chances are you don’t have experience in all areas, you’ll get backed into a corner and lose all credibility. Also, not all practices are defensible. (Read more) Wait, why are we waiting to play defense?
  4. Being reactive rather than proactive. Be candid. If you know it’s a (possible) issue, be transparent now. Waiting until it meets your “trigger for action” means you’re already behind. (Read more)
  5. Assuming we can’t do better. There is always room for continual progress. Just because a practice was the best we knew how to do 10 years ago, does not make it the best available practice today. (Read more)
  6. Attacking everyone who disagrees with you in a negative, critical manner. Food is a personal issue to most folks. Many folks associate animals with their pets at home. These are emotional topics for everyone. If you get defensive and attack, you’re not contributing to productive dialogue. (Read more)
  7. Not being willing to listen because we are so busy responding. Communication is a two-way street. You have two ears and one mouth. Often times we need to stop and ask questions, listen, and hear what others are saying. (Read more)
  8. Assuming that the lunatic fringe is the general public. We spend way to much time focusing on lunatics and not working with the public. (Read more)
  9. Assuming that because someone disagrees with you they are stupid, evil or both. Good people can look at the same issue differently. Not everyone’s situation or circumstance is the same. There is more than one way of growing food and livestock. Respect that fact. (Read more)
  10. Not working to branch outside your comfort zone. Stop preaching to the choir. Engage in other conversations, seek out other perspectives. The more you learn about other perspectives, the more you’ll discover how much (or how little) you know about your own. (Read more)

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.” — Darwin

But sometimes, honestly, you just have to know how to lose gracefully. And then some will argue it’s possible to lose the argument, but win the cause.

Tips for approaching controversial subjects…

  • When possible, set the stage to avoid fear of retaliation from opposing viewpoints
  1. Listen respectfully, without interrupting
  2. Respect one another’s views
  3. Criticize ideas, not individuals
  4. Commit to learning, not debating
  5. Avoid blame and speculation
  6. Avoid inflammatory language
  • Consider your own biases or confusion surrounding the issue
  • Recognize the diversity of the group. This is an asset and can lead to authentic conversation
  • Set a framework and objectives for the discussion that lead to engagement and consideration of opposing viewpoints
  • When possible provide a foundation and context for better understanding
  • As a moderator, foster civility and prepare to deal with tense or emotional moments
  • At the end of the conversation summarize and reflect, then always leave the door open for follow-up conversations.

Read more tips for approaching controversial subjects in an earlier post.

#FoodForThought Where’s The Disconnect?

Thinking out loud here. Where’s the disconnect when it comes to food? I’ve said it many times in the past few years that most Americans are disconnected from agriculture and that we farmers, ranchers and those of us involved in agriculture need to advocate, share our stories, and work to fix that disconnect. That people need to get out and talk to a farmer to learn what actually happens on today’s farms and ranches and to learn more about where our food comes from.

But, now I want to turn the table and pose a different question. Why are farmers and ranchers and those of us involved in agriculture so disconnected from most Americans?

For example, take a millennial guy in an office in New York City. Is he disconnected from agriculture or is agriculture disconnected from him? #FoodForThought

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Running Confused | Where Do I Find Credible Information?

Running information facts confused
Image via

Running should be easy. Right? You buy a pair of running shoes, lace them up and take off down the road. But wait…. What shoes are the right fit? Will they injure my feet if they’re not just the right fit? Should I stretch before I run? What’s the best way to build up my speed and endurance? Should I be eating differently? How long before I can run a marathon 5k? Does it injure my feet if I run on pavement? How often should I run? Am I improving my fitness? Should I be lifting weights too? Will this spare tire ever disappear?!? Gahhhhh!

Ok, well, maybe running isn’t as simple as it first appears…

I’m not a professional runner by any means. In the past 2 years, I’ve put in over 400 miles (never mind all those runs I didn’t record on my running app) running and on the treadmill. For me, running is an opportunity to clear the mind and to counteract those hours I’ve spent at the desk in grad school and now with my current job. Joining the local runners’ club is a great way to branch out of my normal ag circles and meet other folks who love the outdoors, a recovery beer, and staying active. It’s an opportunity for a breath of fresh air and to kick my day off to an awesome start. I’ve even purchased a gym membership so I can change up my workouts with different equipment.

But the more I run, the more I am confused on how to workout properly. If I google for tips on how to improve or run properly, I’m overwhelmed by the noise coming from so many directions. Even the Runner’s World and Men’s Health Magazines give me completely different answers, sometimes in the same issue. I’m really not sure where to turn for the right answers, even with hours of study.

Then it hits me… This must be how it feels to walk into a subject with little prior exposure or knowledge of what is considered a credible source of information. Is this how it feels for urban consumers seeking to learn more about our food supply? How do they learn where to turn for information? Why would they trust farmers or scientists? How would they find those folks to hear what they have to say?

How do I know I have the right information when it comes to running? Do I believe one source over the other because I’m sold on the emotion of wanting to be fit like the people on the cover of a magazine?

I guess the answer comes down to making your own personal decisions – doing your own research and deciding for yourself who to trust.

I sure wouldn’t appreciate it if someone told me I was ignorant when it comes to running, as I’m sure I’ve made some people feel when it comes to statements I’ve made surrounding our food supply in the past. No one is perfect, but understanding comes with experience and is a part of growing up.

I may not be running a marathon anytime soon (but I will say, training at 3,800 feet elevation would probably give me an advantage when running back home), but engaging in activities and other interests helps me learn more about my passions and maybe even new perspectives on the familiar subjects I’ve known my entire life.

Next time you engage in a conversation and view someone as ignorant because they should have known better, take a moment to consider the situation. Run a mile in their shoes and consider the other perspectives. Maybe they’re just looking for someone they can trust to simply, honestly tell them what they want to know.

Now about that tie in with food…. After that 10k today, I’m starved. Where’s the tacos?!?