Tag Archives: food

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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5 Things: Food On My Mind and ‘Type A’ Personality Problems

My blogging in 2014 = sucks. Life and work have been crazy busy, but in a good kind of exhausting way. I traveled much of December, January, and February, then it got really cold with a lot of snow. Now that we’re moving into Spring, the snow sticks around for shorter periods of time, the sun stays up much longer, and I’m finally getting things lined out. My Type A personality is finally able to breathe a sigh of relief!

So instead of trying to blog about everything I need to catch up on, I thought I’d make headway with the 5 things on the top of my mind today.

Early mornings are no excuse for poor diet choices.

Last week, CNN’s food page posted a story following an anchor as she switched gears from an afternoon broadcast to anchor their New Day morning show. Brooke Baldwin marveled and laughed about her diet high in sugar, coffee, donuts, poptarts, champagne, two meals a day, and how all that ended up in a spell of food poisoning. No wonder…

I asked the crowd in the I am Agriculture Proud Facebook group their thoughts and suggestions and the responses were pretty much in line with what I expected. Early mornings are no excuse to eat poorly. I start every morning with a glass of water, a chocolate drink mix, milk, 2 eggs, greek yogurt, and banana/orange. Kick off the day with plenty of protein and vitamins, lay off the sugar, and fit in some exercise. I aim for at least four, 45-minute workouts every week. Everyone is different, but my routines are working pretty well for me. What is your advice for getting a great start and powering through the day despite early morning starts?

Pork Chop, Bacon, and T-bone

One of my co-workers is out of the office this week and on vacation with his kids while they’re on Spring Break. That means I get to take care of their 4-H projects! This is Pork Chop and Bacon. In the background is T-bone the steer. In all reality, I don’t know what their names are, but I do know that’s how I named my animals when I was showing as a youth.

4-H Show PigsMy vegan experience

Actually, my experience doesn’t entail indulging in any changes of my diet or wardrobe, but I do have the opportunity to work with a future Montana Beef Ambassador this week. I’ll be playing the role of a vegetarian/vegan to gauge their ability to respond to situations where they may encounter people who challenge their stance on issues surrounding beef.

I again turned to Facebook, on the I am Agriculture Proud page this time, to poll the audience on how I should prepare. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough about the situation, but I was a little disappointed in the tone of several responses. Sure, we can have fun with stereotypes, and we do frequently joke of our love of beef (that in no way means I don’t have my healthy portions of all the other food groups as well), but there were definitely some statements that I’d hope wouldn’t be made in the conversation with someone about vegetarian or vegan diets/lifestyles. Might I suggest these tips for better conversations and a bit more respect shared in earlier blog posts.

So people’s comments = #SMH

CNN Eatocracy reshared my 2013 article about National Agriculture Day and it received quite the traffic after being tweeted out on the @CNN account. That also brought in some interesting comments from the gallery. *cough*trolls*cough*

If we believed the comments made, farmers only work 10 hours a year; only work with pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and subsidies; and bring in $1.5 million each year with little to no investment and live off the tax payers’ wallets. Like I said, SMH. We have quite a bit of ground to make up according to some folks’ perspectives.

Technology malfunctions may drive me crazy.

That ‘Type A’ personality I mentioned above…. Yeah, it doesn’t do so well with malfunctioning technology. Website design isn’t my area of specialty, but I have done everything with the tools available to me to try and make my work website function properly. It’s not happening. I’ve even watched several hours of video tutorials from tech pros. It’s not happening. The bread crumb trail has traveled around the world and back again and everyone I talk to trying to gather all the pieces back together only have another vague name or email address for me. *Throwing hands up in the air* Now I’m seeking help from a professional. If you know an expert in WordPress websites (or are one), give me a shout. I need help.

On a brighter tech note, I LOVE trying to explain the basics of technology to Montana ranchers! We’re talking, how to open/send an email or click on hyperlinks on a webpage. Weird, right? But I love the challenge of having to take a step back and be able to explain things from the start, especially things I’ve been doing since I was in high school. In turn, these ranchers are probably teaching me more about life than I’ll ever realize. But hey, what’s life without a challenge?

Image credit: Idaho Cattle Association
Image credit: Idaho Cattle Association
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Don’t Take My Word For It

Who do we trust? Food, Agriculture, Science, Media, Labels
Image via: Science Media Centre

Labels, labels, labels. Every time I turn around there is a new ballot initiative or a new campaign for more labels on our food. If you ask me there is such a thing as labeling overkill and it dilutes the effect of those things that really matter. Is a label just an excuse to be lazy and replace the effort is takes to seek out information on our own? There are so many news stories and nightmare-ish tales of what happens in our food supply today, we are all too often unsure of what to believe.

With good reason, we should all be skeptical in this modern age. The internet is full of facts and figures, personal accounts and testaments to what people want us to believe happens. So how do we determine what is the real truth? CBS News Sunday Morning had an interesting feature on the topic. Be sure and take a few minutes to watch it.

Food and Agriculture falls victim to this cause day in and out. Every day so many people are out there shouting for their cause. Yes! Those Factory Farms are horrible and a disgrace to the animals on this Earth! Pink Slime makes your meat unsafe! shouts the foodie from behind their urban computer. NO! We take care of our livestock on our family farm! The needs of our animals come before our own! Your food is safe! says the farmer blogger in rural Nebraska. Who is right? Does the undercover video depict real actions in food production today? Or was it all a staged effort from someone with different motives? Do those farmers really care for their animals like those photos depict? We can shout about this debate every single day. But what’s the truth?

Let’s be honest about it. Are there people out there who abuse animals? Yes. Do these people represent the majority of animal owners out there? No. Just because one person abuses their kids, does that mean everyone does the same? Does modern food production abuse the use of technology in chemical application and mass-production? Depends on who you ask. On the same hand, there is nothing more frustrating than someone preaching to me about how wrong I am when I share my experience, as a member of the agriculture community. It’s like my experience doesn’t matter because of something they read or watched from an opposing viewpoint.

Modern food producers exist in every shape, size, color, region, and practice. Some are able to fit small niches, while others contribute to mass effort of a global food supply. Growing food in a modern world is well beyond the mom and pop garden that is able to feed all of the neighbors. Every day we learn something new that makes growing food an art and science. With 98% of Americans living apart from hands-on food production, it takes individuals producing more than enough. They’ve learned to grasp modern science and technology to do so more efficiently.

Are there changes that can be made? Probably so. Is there one right way of doing things? Definitely not. Should I sit here and say tell what your ethics should be when it comes to eating meat? Definitely not. Can we testify for certain how everyone does their job? Nope. I can sit here and tell you what I do and how I raise my cattle and why I manage my farm the way I do. But you’ll still be skeptical based on what you’ve read elsewhere online. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye, but we can remain civil.

Don’t take my word for it. Go out there and experience it for yourself. Get in touch with a farmer or rancher in your area and experience it for yourself. Get out there and talk to your customer at the grocery store and find what concerns they have about our food supply. After all, this is just the internet. I can tell you whatever I want but it doesn’t mean its true.

**Most of this was pulled from the Drafts folder. I have probably sit on this one long enough.

Judging the 2014 National Beef Ambassador Contest

2014 National Beef Ambassador Springdale Arkansas
Contestants at the 2014 National Beef Ambassador Contest in Springdale, Arkansas

I love to travel, even if it does mean riding in a small Delta puddle jumper with a grumpy flight staff. A few weeks ago, I had the really awesome opportunity to travel to Arkansas and be a judge for the 2014 National Beef Ambassador contest. I was never a participant in the program, but have seen the extent of their activities at national trade shows and coverage of their consumer outreach at events across the country.

23 states were represented, including Tennessee and Montana which both had junior (high school) and senior (college) participants. Tennessee’s Rachael Wolters made the senior team! The juniors are able to return to the competition. Seniors only have one year of competition. I wrote up a piece from the Montana perspective on the MSGA blog.

What is a National Beef Ambassador?
National Beef Ambassadors are passionate youth advocates for the beef community. The individuals on the National Beef Ambassador Team are the official youth representatives of the American National CattleWomen, Inc. [ANCW] and the beef industry. Each year a team of five National Beef Ambassadors is selected during a national contest to travel the United States sharing the story of beef from pasture to plate with consumers and students.

What is the purpose of the National Beef Ambassador Program?
The purpose of the program is to provide American consumers and students with positive nutritional, economic, and environmental stewardship information related to beef consumption and the beef industry. Participants learn how to effectively address issues and misconceptions, accurately share industry practices, and promote the versatile uses of beef.

Learn more in the FAQs on the Beef Ambassador page.

I had the opportunity to judge the Issues Response section. Contestants were given a hot topic article and were given 30 minutes to write a response to consumers in the form of a ‘Letter to the Editor’. One article focused on Meatless Mondays, while the other focused on environmental impact of beef cattle production. Some of those kids know their stuff! The BoviDiva (a.k.a. Dr. Jude Capper) even had her research on the topic mentioned several times.

Not only was this a great opportunity to catch up, enjoy a few meals and drinks with awesome friends from across the country (like Dairy Carrie, the REAL Beefman, Brandi “Buzzard”, and Mal the Beef Gal), I awesome got to meet some new folks and watch some amazing youth who will be the future ambassadors of our beef community. Even if these kids never win the competition, they are receiving some great training on what it means to be an advocate and outspoken for a cause you believe in.

There were a few kids who relied heavily on the coined PR phrases and industry lingo, and a few that still have some polishing up to do on being able to convey their message to consumers, but overall, it was a great group of kids. The team was chosen on Saturday night after a long day of competition and hearty steak supper. For those who didn’t make the team, I say press on. You don’t have to have a title or be a part of an official team to make a difference.

The agriculture community needs more folks like these youth in training to step up and be advocates for our way of life.

Powering through the afternoon with coffee and ice cream
Powering through the afternoon with coffee and ice cream
Thank you to the Arkansas Cattlewomen who hosted the event!
Thank you to the Arkansas Cattlewomen who hosted the event!
atlanta airport fried food
I’m a glutton for airport food. Especially these AWESOME fried, stuffed jalapenos at the Atlanta airport
Oh Delta, your small planes and tall people just don't match very well.
Oh Delta, your small planes and tall people just don’t match very well.
The Northwest Arkansas airport (XNA) has some awesome burgers
The Northwest Arkansas airport (XNA) has some awesome burgers
Advocacy on the go is pretty easy with a simple "I Heart Beef" on my carry-on
Advocacy on the go is pretty easy with a simple “I Heart Beef” on my carry-on