Tag Archives: social media

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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Why Invest in Social Media? Ask One Question


I’ve had the awesome opportunity to work on social media training with many individual farmers and ranchers as well as guest speaking at several events during the past several years. One of the most frequent challenges folks often face when trying to justify the investment into social media can be boiled down to just one question… “WHY?”

Image via briansolis.com
Image via briansolis.com

I always suggest planning out a social media strategy should begin with sitting down to draw out a road map. Who is your audience? What are you trying to accomplish? What are your goals? But this week, I found a good article in my feeds that summed it up pretty well.

Win With Social Media Marketing By Answering One Question | WebPro Business

The thing that really needs to be nailed down when it comes to blogging or any other social media effort, is the answer to this most important question:

Why?

Before you dismiss this as obvious, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a group of smart, accomplished marketers just assume the person in charge of the directive has a well informed answer to “why”.

If you’re a social media marketer, content marketer, copywriter or in another role where blogging is part of your responsibility, try to start asking “why” when you receive directives related to growing community, affecting a certain kind of traffic or other key performance indicator.

If you get a reasonable answer, then you’ll have better context to achieve the goal. If you don’t, then it’s an opportunity to collect the information necessary to make your efforts more productive for you, the company and the audience you’re targeting.

There are several ways to approach this, but one of the most straightforward schemes for asking and managing the “why” is through a cycle of hypothesis, implementation and optimization.

Visit the article to read more - Win With Social Media Marketing By Answering One Question

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The author gets a little technical, but I think he makes some great points, but it certainly helps my strategy on a daily basis as I work with ranchers here in Montana. I continually find myself asking how we can make the best use of social media to market folks who don’t always understand the value of it.

Too often we can get wrapped up in what WE love to do and misplace our focus on our objective for investing time online. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of how some many issues can be refocused with a question as simple as “Why?”.

Read more of my posts with social media tips in Better Blogging.

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Lessons I’ve learned while sticking my neck out


Image via larsbredahl.com
Image via larsbredahl.com

This isn’t my normal kind of post but it’s something that I want to share. It seems like more and more I’m incredibly frustrated some days by the conversations I find. It’s amazing how well people think they know me just by reading a few (or sometimes just one) of my posts on social media. And those folks can be pretty quick to place judgment. If you’re willing to stick your neck out there to voice and opinion, especially on a site like CNN, you better be willing to take some flack and critical feedback. I thought I would share a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way as an agvocate.

There are a lot of lazy people out there.

I’ll be honest; I like cattle and horses a lot more than I like people most days. I understand horses and cows. What I don’t understand is how people can buy into information and never make the effort to look at all sides of an issue. Seriously, where do people come up with these things? If you saw it in a documentary, then found it again on a website, it has to be true, right? Forget the other perspectives, common sense, or science. Emotion rules!

Agriculture needs to do a better job of recognizing and talking about improvements that can be made in the food chain.

While I knew this was the truth, this has been made even more loud and clear to me after reading the conversations/posts from consumers in response to my CNN articles. We’ve done a terrible job of showing our customers the improvements we have made and we avoid the hard topic of what we need to improve on next.

It is the responsibility of Farmers and ranchers to tell their story and listen to their customers.

And we’re terrible at listening. There’s a lot of pride and independence instilled in farm and ranch life. Why should we bother making an extra effort to tell people about what we do? Because other people are telling the general public about farming and ranching and those stories are not true. As the people most directly connected to what our customers eat, we are the real experts. Sad part is, people believe the stories that are being told about us and it’s an uphill battle to fight first impressions.

People are jerks.

If you want to find the cruelest community in America, scroll down to the comments section of any major news outlet. Seriously, people actually say those things? You bet! And there’s not much use in arguing with them. On top of that, you have people that seem to comment just because they like to see their name show up. They add no value to the conversation. There must be great Wi-Fi reception underneath bridges where the trolls live.

Respect your peers, regardless of production practices.

I am human, I share my perspective based on my life experiences. Just because I describe my experiences from one type of farming/ranching, doesn’t mean I don’t support other production types. It’s not all or nothing, but if you listen to my critics, you would think that was the case. If you thought being a jerk was only true for the general public, go see some of those within the agriculture community who label themselves as “independent thinkers”.

The pendulum swings both ways.

I akin this to the swing in fad diets. One day Atkins diet is the rage, the next day carbs are manna from heaven, and next thing you know everyone thinks they have celiac disease and wheat is the devil. People go to extremes and when they do, folks on the other end of the spectrum are always wrong. This goes for the methods of agriculture we choose to discuss and we can be so wrapped up with the infighting that we forget to talk about the middle ground. Not that we don’t have it, we just forget about it at times.

Transparency is the answer. Even that will be attacked.

The only way to address all the misinformation out there is with honesty and transparency. However, when we are transparent we can be heavily criticized for what is revealed. To make it worse, when we aren’t transparent, critics think we have something to hide. Agricultural tools have changed drastically over the past few decades and we’ve done a terrible job of being transparent about those changes, why they were made, and the improvements they provide. Most people can understand these changes, if we take the time to explain them.

It is possible to become overwhelmed by social media.

Holy cow! I can’t tell you the number of days in the past 3 years when I have wanted to throw away each and every mobile device in my hand and rip out the internet connection on my laptop. All the previous points are just introductions to the reasons for that. Social media gives people a bullhorn and the filters turn off when people hit the keyboards. Taking in and responding to all of the messages that come across your social media fields can be overwhelming and depressing. They can make you angry and want to take off for the pasture never to return.

But we have a responsibility to join the conversations and be present when people have questions. Otherwise we lose our voice in the conversations and essentially any representation when it comes time to make decisions that determine our ability to continue making a living in the world we live in. The stupid people may have the bullhorn, but we have to remember there are lots of folks out there silently listening, watching our (re)actions, and wanting to learn more about where their food comes from.

 

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2014 AgChat Foundation Regional Conference – Portland


Hashtag sign
In case you don’t know about #Hashtag, click here for the video with Jimmy and Justin.

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Portland, Oregon for the 2014 AgChat Foundation Regional Conference. The 2-day Conference is a smaller scale of our national conference (2014 national location to be announced soon!) and is a great opportunity for folks on a beginner level to get a more intimate opportunity to learn about the tools of social media. Portland is a rather food-centric city compared to much of the U.S. and provided a great opportunity for farmers and ranchers in the Pacific Northwest to gain some awareness of food conversations around them.

In case you’re not aware of the work of the AgChat Foundation – AgChat is a non-profit that works to give farmers and ranchers the tools to engage with customers in food conversations. This includes tips on how to approach difficult conversations and learning how to utilize social media platforms to engage in those conversations. Learn more about AgChat at AgChat.org or join the weekly Twitter chat – Tuesdays, 5-7 p.m. Pacific by using the hashtag #agchat.

On Thursday night, we had the opportunity to breakout and travel to several food establishments across the Portland area. My group went to Bob’s Red Mill where we learned more about the history of this local, family owned grain processor. Red Mill produces many flours, cereals, grain and baking ingredients from raw grains, products that encourage consumers to utilize more basic ingredients in their home kitchens. It’s interesting to see how rapidly the company is expanding and outgrowing their facilities. Their most rapidly growing product line is gluten-free where the Mill uses many various grains (excluding wheat) to produce flours and baking ingredients for customers who want to remove wheat products from their diets.

Bob's Red Mill Portland Product Line

Bob’s is making progress in their GMO-free labeling with the Non-GMO project. We asked why they are pursuing the labeling program when so many of their grains are not even available in GM varieties. Bob’s staff say they believe that the consumer is always right which is why they are pursuing this line. It was really cool to see the diversity of products in Bob’s line up. They emphasized the importance on a record of food safety and cleanliness, not only in their facilities, but also in their suppliers and transport.

Side note: I wonder why a company would spend money labeling products, fueling consumer concerns about products that are not even available in GM (ex. There is no such thing as GM oats. SO what’s the use in labeling oats as GMO-free?). Providing accurate information about how grains are grown and the availability of GM foods falls on everyone from the producer to the retailer. There are times when the consumer is not right. Excess labels dilutes the impact of labeling and make us lazy.

That being said, kudos to Bob’s for listening to consumers and taking a voluntary approach to labeling their product lines, something that really shouldn’t be required by government policies.

Workshops on Friday morning included tips for using Facebook, Twitter, blogging platforms, Pinterest, Instagram and more. Attendees also had the opportunity to learn how to handle difficult conversations and negativity in a workshop with Marie Bowers. I presented about measuring your impact online and gave several tips/tools on how to gauge your effectiveness. Many of the suggestions I gave centered around paying attention to what your audience is currently reading and returning to the topics that engage your audience. Consistency and Listening are always important when it comes to drawing and retaining an audience for the messages you want to share online.

Montana ranchers attending the AgChat Foundation social media training in Portland
Montana ranchers had a great crew to represent the state while we were in Portland!

The conference went great and it was awesome to see a few days of green in the middle of winter. Considering I’ve seen snow since October, I found a little surprise in just how green Portland is at the end of January. As with any trip in the middle of winter from Montana, my flights were delayed in both directions. On the trip out of Helena, we sat on the plane for 3 hours while the crews tried to thaw frozen brakes. On the way back, we had to sit at Great Falls while crews plowed the runway, which wasn’t plowed when we landed and created quite a white scene with a few inches of fresh snow. Getting to the airport at 5 a.m. on Thursday and landing at almost 1 a.m. Saturday morning made for a few long days.

One benefit of traveling during the winter in Montana. Check out that view at the Helena airport!
One benefit of traveling during the winter in Montana. Check out that view at the Helena airport!

Despite all that, it was a great trip and I hope everyone involved had a great time learning more about these conversation tools while in Portland! Check out more photos from the conference on Facebook!

Montana ranchers attending the AgChat Foundation social media training in Portland
Generations working together to learn more about Social Media platforms.

Montana ranchers attending the AgChat Foundation social media training in Portland

The breakout crew at Bob's Red Mill
The breakout crew at Bob’s Red Mill
Bob's Red Mill Portland
Learning more about the grain processing and product lines at Bob’s

Bob's Red Mill Portland

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