I've been invited to speak at AgChat's National Collegiate Congress tomorrow in Indianapolis. AgChat? AgChat is an organization created to empower farmers and ranchers to connect with communities through social media.
I ventured to my first AgChat conference in 2011 and credit this organization to many of my professional contacts and dearest friends.
This organization has evolved past social media account tutorials and now focusses on storytelling and content.
Tomorrow I will stand before a herd of college students and discuss advocating away from the farm. Known to me as living. College students are the most terrifying of species. They know everything. I know this because I was the most basic of college students.
Because my genes are from Indiana, I ventured to the 317 early to spend a few days working remotely on the davenport while discussing soybean prices and checkoff programs with my grandpa. Meanwhile, my other grandpa started a new blog.
Being here (literally, in Indiana) working on tomorrow's presentation has afforded the hamsters a significant about of time on the wheel. How did I get here? This path, man. I couldn't have planned this.
the three one seven
My genes are from Franklin, Indiana. My family has been farming in central Indiana for quite a few years. In fact, my great-grandpa was the Indiana Dairyman of the Year in 1957.
Agriculture is in my genetic makeup.
In the late 90s, when today's college students were learning to walk and my parents decided a life in the west was their jam.
Talk about traumatic for this 5th grade graduate. My parents loaded up a pot belly of commercial cattle, a stock trailer full of our prized processions and drove to Oklahoma where dreams could be made. You know, unicorns, glitter, magic.
Middle school. Dirt roads. Dirt roads.
Home became Perkins, Oklahoma.
the four oh five
Since the late 90s (when Nick TV was better than Disney), my family’s farm transitioned into more of a ranching operation. With a few thousand acres to run commercial cattle and purebred angus my family fell in love with Oklahoma.
I fell hard.
The life I became to know and love was so different that what I would have had in Indiana.
Then I fell harder in college. The food system and agriculture's many facets became the thing that made sense to me. I traveled abroad with groups to Nicaragua, Argentina, Scotland, England and France and saw first-hand the different views of the vast agricultural industry.
After two degrees, I moved the 100 miles to Oklahoma City where I became the pork girl. ( A post to be written by the sportswriter.)
At OPC, was thrown directly into media buying and marketing promotions. I loved it. I loved telling stories. However, I became very intimate with the gap between agriculture and consumers. I needed something that, at the time, agriculture couldn't give me. I needed to know consumers.
I mean, I liked consumers. Wasn't I one? To me, the line between the two didn't exist. I'm an equal opportunity human supporter.
My plan: Leave agriculture and return in five to seven years with mainstream media and advertising experience.
I became the official travel writer and social media manager of Chickasaw Country, which is the south-central region of Oklahoma., and covered concerts, restaurants, stores.
The. Best. Job. Ever.
Just me and my consumers. Chatting. Exploring. People really liked hearing my stories. They loved knowing I broke ice before school, how my show stock made its way into the herd, what “fixing a water gap” meant.
the seven oh four
In North Carolina, I joined a prominent advertising agency that worked with clients in tourism, banking, sports, consumer products, commerce, et al. and found myself on the consumer frontline.
Sure I managed social properties, but I also worked with consumers every day. Until then, I had never been so intimate with a group of humans who were so completely removed from the family farm.
For example, during my interview, an individual in a leadership position laughed as she told me her 6-year-old didn’t know what a cow was. To me, this was completely baffling, but it made sense. How could a child know what a cow was if she didn't venture far from an urban setting?
My examples could go on for days, but it was like something clicked. I felt like Rocky. My whole life I’d been chasing chickens just I could compare consumers to Clubber Lang.
That may be a bad example. No fighting necessary.
the five one two
Only three and half years after leaving agriculture, I've rejoined the team. Go team ag! I serve as a liaison between agriculture and consumers in a vast lineup of commodities and have found a solid niche career in the digital space.
I live in an urban jungle filled with food trucks, live music and really cool humans.
My life is advocating away from the farm.
As a work on tomorrow's presentation and pull specific tips, examples and such I'm reminded it's really just about relationships.
- Listen more than you talk.
- See both sides of the story. (Even if you have to physically go see both sides of the story)
- And be you. No one knows (insert your industry/passion/project) better than you do.
From the 317 to the 405 to the 704 to the 512 and back.
Tomorrow I talk about sharing agriculture's story in the very place my life began developing its roots. Full circle, man. Full circle.