Educating the Moveable Middle, One Picture at a Time
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
With technological advancements that enable everyone to share stories on social media at the click of a button, farmers now have the ability to educate the public beyond the news that chocolate milk does not, in fact, come from brown cows. Casey Kinler, Communications Manager with the Animal Ag Alliance based out of Arlington, Virginia, is urging farmers to capitalize on this opportunity.
“The problem is … [consumers] don’t hear from farmers too often,” Kinler said. “They hear a lot from the other side.”
Sharing their agricultural story can be as simple as one photo a day with a beneficial, detailed explanation that will protect it from being taken out of context.
“Stay honest and be that relatable person that people can ask questions to,” Kinler advised.
It is important that producers are engaged in conversations with those optimistic and interested in where their food comes from. Kinler calls this the moveable middle and encourages this to be the focal point for farmers.
“Have a conversation with those people and don’t waste your time on people who are trying to detract your message,” she concluded.
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.”
Among the mix of registered dietitians conveying the accurate message, California Ag Today concluded our conversation about Facts Not Fear with Teresa Thorn, executive director of the Alliance for Food and Farming, located in Watsonville.
The Alliance hosted the second Facts Not Fear produce safety media tour, in conjunction with Markon Cooperative, for registered dieticians, health and nutrition writers, and bloggers last month in the Salinas Valley. Impacting the customer with the proper information is key.
“We have a mix of writers and bloggers who again have that bullhorn to consumers,” Thorn said.
Social media was also used in conveying the message.
“They’re posting, and we’ve read it and retweeted a lot of their stuff so you can go to our social channels and see some of it,” she explained.
Speaking to growers was very important, and asking industry professionals to attend was vital to cultivating relationships.
“They loved being out in the field. We were always the last ones to get on the bus because they had so many questions,” Thorn said.
The group also does a roundtable discussion where they bring in scientists, shafts, regulators, farmers, and farming companies into the room at Markon’s Produce Expo.
“Building that network was really important,” Thorn said.
For the third consecutive year, Bee Sweet Citrus is eager to help kick off the Power Your Lunchbox Promise with Produce for Kids. The Power Your Lunchbox Promise, a national campaign, aims to encourage families and their children to eat healthier lunches, afterschool snacks and everyday dinners.
“Bee Sweet Citrus is very excited to take part in such an amazing, health-oriented campaign,” said Bee Sweet Citrus Director of Communications Monique Bienvenue. “For the past five years, Produce for Kids has done an amazing job of sharing healthy tips and recipes with families and educators. We’re eager to see how our combined efforts can help encourage healthy habits at home and in the classroom.”
The Power Your Lunchbox campaign ends on September 23rd. Throughout the campaign, families will be encouraged to take an online promise that supports healthy eating at home and at school. For every promise made, sponsors of the Power Your Lunchbox Promise will make a collective $1 donation to Feeding America programs that support families and children.
In addition to the online promotion, Produce for Kids will be marketing register dietitian-approved recipes and nutrition tips on their online and social media platforms. Supporters are encouraged to use the #PowerYourLunchbox hashtag throughout the campaign to help spread awareness on their own social media accounts as well.
“As we celebrate the 5th year of the Power Your Lunchbox Promise, and over 1 million meals donated to Feeding America through the program, we could not have made such an impact without the support of passionate partners like Bee Sweet Citrus,” said Amber Bloom, the digital marketing manager for Produce for Kids. “Together, we’re creating a healthier generation one promise, lunchbox and meal donated at a time.”
Reaching consumers is key to helping with food confusion. Tamika Sims, the director of Food Technology communications for the International Food Information Council Foundation, is using social media to aid consumers.
“We will follow what is happening in … social media—including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest—to get a feel for how consumers are talking about food,” Sims said.
Sims noticed that differences and similarities between organic and conventional crops are being discussed with consumers, emphasizing how safe both are.
“That’s the one that we can’t seem to get enough of,” she said.
They talk about the differences and similarities as far as organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.
“We talk to consumers about how they’re equally safe and equally nutritious and that one is not superior to the other when it comes to food safety or nutrition,” Sims said. “If you have access to either, feel free to enjoy both in an equal way.”
Interested in learning more? You can go to the IFIC’s website to check out their resources.
@AlmondGirlJenny Urges Everyone in Ag to AgVocate on Social Media
By Laurie Greene, Editor
Digital platforms—not newsprint—lead the information superhighway-world we live in. Beyond news websites, everyone in the agricultural industry who is able should engage and agvocate on a few social media platforms such a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or blogs, according to @AlmondGirlJenny.
Jenny Holtermann, aka @AlmondGirlJenny,fourth-generation almond farmer in Kern County, is fully engaged with social media. Social media has become the news source for her, her friends and her generation. “I think it’s important to be involved in social media to tell your story,” Holtermann explained. “That’s how people are getting their news; that’s how people are getting their information these days.”
“It’s critical for us to be out there,” she added, “showcasing what we’re doing and highlighting the benefits of agriculture and how it’s multi-generational, how it’s family oriented. Get people to relate to it and become engrossed in it,” Holtermann said.
Last year a reporter from the Los Angeles Times asked Holtermann about water use in farming almonds. “I was able to set the reporter straight regarding all the myths about almonds and water use,” she commented. “I told her that over the last 10 years, almond growers have reduced their water use by 30 percent and we are working on saving even more.”
Jenny and her husband, Tim Holtermann, have a big story to tell. “I’m a fourth generation California farmer” she began. “My family farms almonds and walnuts in northern California. Then I married a fourth generation California farmer as well.
“We farm together with my husband’s family in the Wasco area. It’s very important to us to care for our land and treat it as best as we can so that it can be passed down to future generations. We’re raising the fifth generation, and we hope that someday, if he so chooses, our son has the opportunity to farm here as well,” she said.
“All of us in agriculture should tell our story,” Holtermann said, so others who are not involved with Ag can learn. “If social media is not your game, hire someone to help you get started.”
California FFA Association, a high school youth leadership and career development organization, is very dynamic in the state. FFA chapters are located throughout the state’s agricultural areas. We had a conversation with Michelle Borges, a sophomore at Hughson High School. She is an active member of the Hughson FFA and serves as the 2016-17 FFA Chapter reporter.
“My job is publicizing the FFA to everyone in the community. I write articles to the local newspapers. I’m in charge of the social media for Hughson FFA. Basically any radio broadcast, television broadcast, anything like that to get the word out about FFA,” Borges said.
Borges was also active in the 4-H starting at age five. She raised and sold goats, and she is devoted to California agriculture to this day. “One of the reasons why I love agriculture is because both my parents work in the agriculture industry. Both my brothers were super involved in the FFA, so I was kind of born into it,” she said.
Borges noted that while her family does not farm, they are involved in agricultural education. “My dad is the Dean of Agriculture at Modesto Junior College, and my mom used to be an agriculture teacher in high school, but now she teaches junior high,” she said.
While still in high school, Borges wants to continue pursuing her passion for agriculture. “When I grow up, I want to be an animal nutritionist. I’m really interested in nutrition for animals and I have also raised goats. . . ‘Seeing them grow up and then selling them. That whole project; it is really interesting to me. Also, with FFA, there’s a lot of public speaking competitions and I really enjoy public speaking in front of a crowd,” she said.
To hone her skills for that animal nutrition career, Borges plans to go to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, after she graduates from high school.
Jenny Schwiegert, AgChat Foundation chief executive director, spoke to Laurie Greene, California Ag Today editor, at the recent Bayer AgVocacy Forum about one of the biggest challenges to agricultural advocacy. “We’ve got excellent bloggers out there,” Schwiegert said, “however, the audience they [reach] tends to be other growers and ranchers. We do not want to be singing to the choir. We need to find other ways to connect with non-ag consumers.”
Schwiegert elaborated on some of the resources for non-ag readers posted on theAgChat website, “There’s a page under “Resources” that talks about different non-agricultural hashtags people can use when they tweet or use Instagram or Snapchat. We also have a post about people with whom we need to connect on Twitter who are not necessarily in the agricultural industry.”
To [farmers and Ag bloggers] who are trying to determine who their audience might be, Schwiegert advised, “There is more to you than just farming and ranching. You know, I like to do renovations at my home; I like photography; and I’m a baseball mom. When I began blogging, which I don’t do as much recently, my strategy was always to be incognito and not say, ‘Hey, this is what I do.’ I would only talk about farming.”
However, Schwiegert discovered that when she talked about those other topics that are not necessarily related to farming, her posts attracted a lot more of a mom-based or photographer-based audience. She suggested, “Find that spark, the other part of your life that is not related to farming and ranching, and explore and talk about it. Connect with other people [consumers] who have that same desire to have a hobby or whose kids are also in baseball, or whatever it might be.”
While connecting with people via a distinctly different interest can be constructive, Schwiegert held that consumers do trust and want to hear about agriculture from farmers and ranchers. She referred to a recent finding that while the majority of people do not know how to get in contact with a farmer, farmers are the people they want to talk to and get their information from.
“We have also experienced this on a personal basis,” Schwiegert shared. “While our operation is very small, we like to take people, and not necessarily adults. Sometimes we will bring our children’s friends out, show them the sheep, and take them to my in-laws’ dairy. My younger two sons have an egg business, so we’ll show them that too.”
“Ninety-nine percent of the time,” Schwiegert said, “someone will say, ‘Oh these are so much better than the store-bought, and the store-bought has been sitting on the shelves for months.’ That’s where I stop and say, ‘that is not necessarily true. Let me connect you with Katy who is in Iowa or let me connect you with Greg in Oregon, whose egg farm is producing 1.5M eggs a day.’”
“I like to connect people,” she explained, “to help them understand what modern agriculture is all about because we tend to have a [rustic] romantic, idealistic view of what a farm is, and that is what people want.” But, she contends, that may not match what farming really is in today’s world. “I think people really do want to talk to the farmers and ranchers,” said Schwiegert. “They just don’t know how to go about connecting with them.”
Schwiegert does not know if there is a definite ‘disconnect’ between this romantic view of the rustic farm scene with antiquated tools, and consumers who use the latest devices and apps. She said, “I am not sure how to re-connect that. For instance, why is it ok to use an antibiotic if you have pneumonia, but it is not ok to use it in chicken? And I’m not sure how we mend that because consumers are not trustworthy of statistics and science, so I guess that it is one of the million-dollar questions out there. You know, how is it OK for them to have a Fitbit, but our farmers can’t use GPS or auto-steer in their tractors or precision Ag drones?
“That is a huge disconnect, and we need to address it as an industry,” Schwiegert reflected. “I think a lot of people in agriculture are intimidated and scared to share their stories because there are folks out there who are ready to pounce. And especially if you have small children, you do not want to have those types of people on your property. So people are hesitant to share their stories.
“I have the same fears,” Schwiegert stated. “I don’t want people like that on my farm. But the more that we can share our stories out in public, using different methods—whether through social media or a farm-to-table type of event with a commodity group at a public location—the more likely we are to mend that disconnect.”
Do you have a farm or ag business that’s not engaged on social media yet? We want YOU to be on top of your social media game! We’ll be sharing tips and pointers to help you get started or improve promotion of your ag-related company through social media.
Today we’ll get you started with Facebook.
Friend Page– a personal page for you to make friends of your own and connect with others
Fan Page – a public page used to share updates for your farm, ranch, organization or company (these updates can be seen by everyone)
Step 1: Create a “Friend” Page or Log In
(1.1) First things first: Open your web browser and type facebook.com into the url bar at the top.
Before you can create what is known as a “fan” page for Facebook to post updates and promote your business, you are required to have a Facebook “friend” page.
Already have a “friend” page? Great! Go ahead, log into it and proceed with us. If not, continue with Step 1.2.
(1.2) Enter the required information and click “Sign Up.”
(1.3) Record your information and password in a secure place. Well now, that was easy enough!
Step 2: Create a “Fan” Page
This is the most important part! Once you’ve set up your “friend” page it will be time to develop a “fan” page. We’ll walk you step-by-step through the process.
First and foremost, across the top of your page, in the blue border, you’ll notice:
a “home” button
a few other buttons.
a little arrow, all the way to the right.
(2.1) Click the little arrow.
The pop up menu that appears next should read, “Create Page” at the top. Don’t worry if it looks different than the sample page (at left) because this was previously created.
(2.2) Click on “Create Page” to continue creating your “fan” page.
Step 3: Select the Type of “Fan” Page
At this point, you’ll be prompted to select the type of page. You have the following options:
For the purposes of this tutorial we are going to create a “Company, Organization or Institution” page. No matter what you choose, the overall appearance will generally be the same.
Definitions, for our purposes:
Local Business or Place – A location or business such as a bar, restaurant or retailer. This page allows you to define your business hours and price range of products sold. Ideal for fruit stands.
Company, Organization or Institution – Ideal for companies, businesses or organizations that don’t need to publicize work hours or prices to the public. Examples could include: CDFA, California Ag Today, Fresno County Farm Bureau.
Brand or Product – A specific product,service,organization or campaign you want to promotewithtrademarkordistinctivename, aside from your corporate identity. This page could garner a lot of attention for a specific crop, such as Wonderful® Halos® California Mandarins or Cuties Mandarins.
Public Figure – A politician, community leader, reporter, or person of note within the community.
Entertainment – (not a likely choice)
Cause or Community – A page to rally for someone suffering from health issues, a family needing help after a tragic accident… Aka pages to rally to help those in the community in need of help.
(3.1) Click on the “Company, Organization or Institution” icon (or another category that works best for your business). You will be prompted for information.
In this case. we were asked to (3.2) “Choose a Category” and (3.3) enter the company name. For this tutorial, we selected “Farming/Agriculture” as our category and named our mythical company “Calagtoday’s Social Media Farm.”
(3.4) Select “Get Started.”
Step 4: Setting up your “Fan” Page
Now you will be directed to enter more information. The first page will ask you (4.1) to enter a brief sentence or two about your page. We described our mythical business as, “Calagtoday’s Social Media Farm page is about teaching people how to use social media to promote their ag businesses.”
(4.2) We connected it to the californiaagtoday.com website in the next field, and (4.3) entered our Facebook web address or link as, “calagtodaySMfarm” for people to find our page.
(4.4) Once you’ve saved that information you’ll move on to selecting a profile picture.
All profile pictures have a 1:1 ratio, which means they are squares. Keep this in mind so you select a picture or logo that fits properly in your profile box. We took our basic graphic square “CalAgToday” logo and added “Social Media Farm” to it for use as our profile picture.
Our picture was on our computer, so (4.5) we selected “Upload From Computer” to get it onto Facebook.
(4.6) Your next choice is whether or not you’d like to add your page to your “favorites”—making it easier to find your page on your Facebook home page instead of having to scroll. This becomes extremely useful as you join more Facebook groups and administrate more of your own pages.
Once you’ve made the decision on whether or not you want your page to be accessible in your “favorites” menu [Click on “Add to Favorites”] or not [Click “Skip”] you’ll be prompted (4.7) to narrow your audience. You can choose the location of the audience you’d like to target, the age range, gender and interests. We simply chose to our audience to be those who are interested in “agriculture,” but you can select additional audience interests.
(4.8) After you’ve completed all of these steps, click “Save.”
Step 5: The “Almost” Finished Page
Congratulations! You’ve completed the basic steps to create a “fan” page for your ag-related business.
For now, though, pause and admire your work. You’re on the way to advocating for agriculture. Facebook is the first step in the social media puzzle, yet it has the largest audience compared to all other social media pages.
We’ll cover the remaining steps required prior to posting content on your page in our next “Social Media Minute.”
Joe Del Bosque’s Plea for Farmers to Engage with Consumers on Social Media
By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor
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While many farmers toil in the fields, consumers expend their energies on social media in the growing disconnect between farms and food. Joe Del Bosque, owner of Del Bosque Farms, Inc., and Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Agriculturalist of the Year, is one of the many farmers who has begun to appreciate the importance for farmers to engage with consumers on social media accounts. “Initially, I got involved to reach out to my customers,” Del Bosque said, “and make a connection so people would know who their farmer was and where their food came from. It’s invaluable because people really want to know not only where their food comes from and from whom, they want to know how they grow it. They too want to make a connection, and it’s up to us farmers to reach out to them because they won’t know how to find us.”
The use of social media over the last decade has increased tenfold with 65 percent of adults now actively using social media accounts according to “Social Media Usage: 2005-2015,” an October 2015 Pew Research Center study by Andrew Perrin. “So, if every farmer could reach out to two or three or 500 people,” explained Del Bosque, “we could reach a lot of people out there.”
For members of the agriculture industry looking to get involved in social media, Del Bosque advises they consider Facebook and Twitter first as they are probably the easiest two. “With Twitter, if you open up an account, you can start following a few people who are active. You could even retweet what they say out to your audience. That would be an easy way to get started.”
A July 2013 article on BufferSocial titled, “10 Surprising Social Media Statistics that will make you Rethink Your Strategy,” by Belle Beth Cooper, revealed that Twitter’s fastest growing demographic was the 55-64 year age bracket, jumping 79 percent from 2012-2013. On Facebook the fastest growing demographic in 2013 was the 45-54 year age bracket, up 46 percent from 2012-2013. Cooper recommended reaching adults 18-34 via YouTube, which reaches more adults in that age range than any cable network.
To learn the ropes on social media, please view previous issues of The Golden Agricast: