first_imgIt used to be that the best and easiest way to communicate was face-to-face conversations. People would stop and chat over backyard fences, at the grocery store or stop on the side of the road and chat before continuing on to their destination. Today’s world has quickened its pace to where a quick chat on a country road isn’t a common occurrence anymore. Instead, sneaking a peek at Facebook and Twitter several times throughout the day works as the best way of keeping up with each other.advertisementadvertisementDespite the obvious downsides of this system, the quick pace and broad reach of social media has its merits. With the introduction and expansion of social media as a part of everyday life, the farming community that may once have been confined to individual counties, regions and countries has now expanded to include the entire globe. Nowhere is this form of global community better seen than on Twitter. One of the benefits of Twitter is easily becoming part of the ongoing conversation about agriculture.Several platforms have sprung up since the rise of social media, one of which is the AgChat Foundation. According to AgChat Executive Director Jenny Schweigert, the AgChat Foundation found its roots in the Tuesday night #agchat conversations, taking off in 2009 when Twitter was at its peak popularity. “It was very quickly evident that this was a great way for farmers and ranchers throughout the world to connect,” Schweigert says. “Then we also realized that there is all this misinformation being circulated and that this is another tool that we can use to talk about our story.”AgChat’s main focus is creating an online community where farmers can discuss topics relevant to them and receive support and advice from people in the same line of work with the same concerns. The foundation was officially formed and incorporated in 2010 and hasn’t stopped growing since. “It now encompasses farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals, dietitians, science, academia, even just agriculture enthusiasts,” Schweigert says. She adds that these “agriculture enthusiasts” are an extremely valuable part of the agvocacy effort. “They may not be from a farm, but they understand modern day agriculture and they want to help tell that story.”One of the major services the AgChat Foundation provides is their annual conference, which will be held Dec. 8-9 in Kansas City, Missouri, this year. “This year we are offering a session that focuses only on how to use Snapchat,” Schweigert says. “And we are offering a panel that will talk about issues within agvocacy. There are so many people who either hate the term or they love it. They may just be misusing it.”She says there is a wide range of contributors on social media who face a variety of challenges. “There are some people who are telling their stories and they have these huge followings and they’re getting paid money to do it. Then you’ve got these other folks who are just starting out or they have a small amount of followers and they’re getting frustrated, so that’s an issue that we’ll bring up and we’ll discuss.” Schweigert says the panel members will include several well-known members of the agvocacy community like Leah Byers, who grew up on a dairy, Krista Stauffer, who currently dairies in Washington state, and Wanda Patsche, a hog farmer in Minnesota.advertisement“We want to talk about advocacy, but we also want to appeal to those who may not be advocating for agriculture so that they can learn what it is that the AgChat Foundation is about,” Shweigert says. “We very much are about empowering people with the right tools to advocate for agriculture, but we’re also about networking. I believe that we have the largest agriculture network out there. It’s about advocacy, but it’s also about learning from one another, empowering one another and lifting each other up in our industry.”Schweigert has seen several inspiring stories unfold from farmers’ relationships on the AgChat Foundation. One of her favorite examples is the reaction of farmers across the U.S. and Canada to the 2013 Atlas blizzard. The AgChat Foundation partnered with Tyson to do a fundraiser for those who had lost livestock due to the unseasonable snow. They ended up raising $50,000 in one hour and over $100,000 total. “It was really humbling and touching to be a part of that and see the community step up like that to help,” Schweigert says. She says they received donations from all over the U.S. and Canada from people who were part of the AgChat network and just wanted to help.Schweigert says big accomplishments like this don’t happen all at once. She advises those interested in becoming more active on social media to start sharing their stories on their personal Facebook page with a goal in mind of what they want to achieve. “All of these different channels are tools, but if you don’t understand how to tell your story, those tools aren’t necessarily going to make you an effective storyteller,” Schweigert says. “You need to know what it is you want to achieve by telling your story. Is there a certain issue that affects your farm directly or a certain part of your farm that you want people to know about? Then you need to make goals on how you’re going to tell that story, and then take it to the next level where you determine where you’re going to tell that story.”#Agchat conversations are held on Twitter every Tuesday from 8-10 p.m. Eastern time.   Carrie VeselkaStaff WriterProgressive DairymanEmail Carrie [email protected]last_img