Animal Ag Alliance Promotes Social Media to Bridge the Gap Between Farm and Fork
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
In the age of social media, facilitating the connection between producer and consumer is more accessible than ever. Casey Kinler, Communications Manager with the Animal Ag Alliance based out of Arlington, Virginia, is not only urging farmers to jump on board the social media craze but is also focusing on helping zealous educators develop their message.
“Now more than ever, it is really important for individual farmers and ranchers to be on social media,” Kinler said.
Although this may be foreign territory for some, she recommends beginning with only one platform such as Facebook because it offers the biggest reach of people
To take it one step further, the Ag Alliance also works with college students, hosting an online scholarship competition where the goal is to teach them how to effectively communicate about animal agriculture. They just celebrated their 10th anniversary of the competition, where over 430 individuals from more than 40 different states participated.
“It’s really important for farmers to get out there and share what they’re doing on their farm and make sure that people in their community know that they are a trusted source.”
The Ag Business Program at Cal State Monterey Bay is very-tech oriented. California Ag Today recently spoke with Shyam Kamath, dean of the College of Business at CSU Monterey Bay, about what the program aims to teach its students.
“We’ve been in existence for about 23 years as a university. We were the university that went from swords to plowshares,” Kamath said. “We went from Fort Ord to becoming a university. Today, the university has two major pieces to it. One is a college of science, and its ag programs, and the second is a college of business with its ag business programs.”
Kamath said that the ag business programs have turned to ag tech programs.
“We need to forcus on perishable commodities, because that’s what this valley’s about,” he explained.
“We are also focused on precision ag, because that’s where the industry is going. So we have the school of computing and design, and the college of business together,” Kamath said. “We are looking at programs where we’ll power that. I have five people in business analytics, so that they understand what to do. Then I’ve got two ag professors who are there.”
“The third focus area is vertical ag and genomic ag. That’s an area where we’re trying to work with the college of science, and have people there to do that,” he said.
The fourth area, is supply chain, because this is an area where supply-chain is critical.
“Supply chain is key. Most ag programs look at production agriculture. We look at production, but also the supply chain, because this is a cold chain. Produce has to move fast and under cold temperatures. If that doesn’t work, then it will not get to a customer,” Kamath explained.
California Ag Today is proud to announce a partnership in support of Farmer Veteran Coalition by featuring stories about their members on a monthly basis. This is the first story in a series that will carry over into the next year.
Agriculture is important in countless ways. In the broadest sense, California’s agricultural industry feeds the world and provides many jobs. But on a smaller level, farming can change one life at a time, whether it’s educating a child or giving purpose to a veteran. That’s what Randy Ryan discovered since he retired from military service with the U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps.
“I volunteered to help some kids grow some food. They said, ‘Man, you’re really good with these kids.’ That started me on the path to teaching kids in the Southern
California area about growing food,” Ryan said.
Ryan, who grew up on a farm in Tennessee, began working with Teaching Gardens, a program funded by the American Heart Association that fights childhood obesity by teaching kids how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce and understand the value of good eating habits.
“I used to go into classrooms and say, ‘Let’s try some broccoli. Let’s try some kale.’ They were like, ‘Ew,’” Ryan recalled. “But if they grow it, they are going to desire it. And if they desire it, they are going to buy it locally.”
While working with Teaching Gardens, Ryan also connected with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The non-profit organization’s mission is to “cultivate a new generation of farmers and food leaders and develop viable employment and meaningful careers through the collaboration of the farming and military communities.” The Coalition believes “agriculture offers veterans purpose, opportunity, and physical and psychological benefits.”
Now, Ryan has become the manager of a new California initiative with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. “We’re going to focus on the state of California and get more veterans involved” Ryan said. The Coalition aims to reach more veterans with information on how to get involved and to encourage more farmers to provide internships to veterans.
Ryan recognizes it can be hard to ask a farmer to train a veteran because they do not necessarily have the time or resources. That’s why Ryan is focused on getting fellowships and grants. Already, many partners have come aboard, including Newman’s Own and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
“There are also a lot of opportunities in the industry other than starting your own farm,” Ryan pointed out. He encourages veterans to consider opportunities in farm management, vineyard management and food safety, among other jobs. “The skills from being a veteran and those from being in the food and agriculture industry—they are so similar to me,” he said.
Ultimately, Farmer Veteran Coalition aims to give returning veterans a purpose after serving their country in the military. “Veterans come home with a feeling of needing to serve,” Ryan said. “Veterans want to serve. There is nothing that gives you purpose like serving. And I cannot think of a better way for veterans to serve than to grow food.”
Six California student authors were recognized for their state-winning stories in the Imagine this… Story Writing Contest. On Wednesday, March 19, the students and their teachers were honored during a ceremony at the California State Capitol in the Governor’s Council Room.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, along with several legislative members and staff representing various districts throughout the state, attended the ceremony to honor the students for their academic achievements.
The following third through eighth grade students were selected from more than 8,000 entrants for their creativity, writing skills, and positive interpretation of California’s agriculture industry:
Rose Velasquez, 3rd grade, McSwain Elementary School (Merced county) for her story, The Pink Shirt
Evan Johns, 4th grade, Gratton Elementary School (Stanislaus county) for his story, The Incident
Jake Martin, 5th grade, Sacred Heart Catholic School (Stanislaus county) for his story, Luigi’s Pride
Creed Newton, 6th grade, Scott Valley Jr. High School (Siskiyou county) for his story, Branding Day on Our Ranch
Allyson Wei, 7th grade, San Gabriel Christian School (Los Angeles county) for her story, Strawberry Troublemakers
Morgan Hicks, 8th grade, Gratton Elementary School (Stanislaus county) for her story, Raineo and Dropulete
Hundreds of California teachers participate in this annual contest by assigning their students the task of researching an aspect of agriculture and challenging them to incorporate these facts into their own creative story.
The success of this contest is bolstered by meeting state English-language arts teaching requirements and by providing an opportunity for students to explore topics of which they previously had limited knowledge.
“We are excited to recognize these students for their writing achievements and their better understanding of farming through the Imagine this… Story Writing Contest. We encourage the students to continue learning about the vital role agriculture plays in our daily lives,” said CFAITC executive director, Judy Culbertson.
The contest’s purpose is to promote reading, writing, and the arts while furthering the public’s understanding of agriculture. Stories are posted online at www.LearnAboutAg.org/imaginethis.
For more information, contact Stephanie Etcheverria, Program Coordinator at 800-700-AITC.