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AgChat Foundation Conference 2013

August 26, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m starting to wind down from a whirlwind trip last week. We started off, as some readers remember, driving to Louisiana to pick up some Champagne D’Argent doe rabbits for Connor. They’ll be bred to his bucks and hopefully we’ll have baby Champagnes by winter.

Then the pre-trip scramble to get things in order, packing and last minute details. Some funds that were promised didn’t actually get here, leaving a scramble to cover what was needed to cover. Thankful for friends even when embarrassed to ask for help.

So bright and early – well dark and early – Wednesday morning, a dash to Birmingham to the airport to catch a flight to Charlotte NC and get half way settled before heading to a board meeting. The volunteers that make this go aren’t in it for money. There are rumors, whispers sometimes but in the end it’s about believing what we do means something. Sometimes it’s easy to question that. By Friday afternoon I don’t question – I hear it from dozens of people.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the meeting, some welcomed pizza then getting together with friends across the street at a sports bar for conversation, fun, pool games and – well if I share everything y’all wouldn’t have to come next year!

Short nights seem normal at these conferences. Early Thursday brought a tasty breakfast at the Embassy Suites host hotel, then opening comments and an awesome address by Jay Baer. Youtility – giving people information they need, before they know they need it – prompted many ideas. Some awesome advice shared, and passed along as he spoke to Twitter and Facebook by many in the room.  I look forward to seeing more from Jay!

Requests for more information from farms in panel sessions brought forth ideas of more details down to the varieties and breeds we use – look for these to start in the near future!

Moderation of the Facebook sessions took up time in the afternoon before an nice dinner and our traditional swap meet. This is part social, part educational – seeing what attendees brought that represents their state, farm or part of agriculture! It ranges from honey to popcorn to pork seasoning, a range of ag items shaped like pigs, cows or eggs and, from here, rosemary, chocolate mint and stevia samples. Socializing went on into the evening, with serious chatter and laughs shared.

Friday morning came quickly with another breakfast treat and getting right into sessions and roundtables. I talked trolls with Tim Zweber and a group of agvocates from around the plate. A short break and a short presentation of not being a social media zombie – that overwhelm at having so much information and ideas that it’s easy to get burned out. Burning questions were addressed, and an awesome close to the conference with Laura Daniels telling what drives her social media efforts on her farm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdmittedly, the involvement with the AgChat Foundation can make my words biased. But I didn’t start out a volunteer – it was wanting to be involved and share that pulled in that direction. It was bringing a microfarm – with specialty products no less! – to a much bigger audience.  It’s not a get rich quick project. It’s taking time to answer what are the spotted chickens and grey rabbits, and why we put water out in a drought for the songbirds. It’s sharing information about food issues and encouraging food choices for all, not just for those who buy from us.

And, with social media, it’s a way to share what we get to work with every day with you, our readers. It’s a chance to share a little bit about rosemary and mints and peppers.  It’s a chance to tell stories about our animals, good and bad, and pull the curtain back to see the good times, the shaky times and the down times that do pass, but that many businesses don’t want to show.

Somewhere out there is a good business hanging on, wondering about one more month. What makes one make it and another not? Passion. Management. Luck, perhaps. The demand comes from consumers – and on a custom basis, when you get a farm share you decide what you want.

But in another way, the only one that can beat us is us – and year by year, month by month, we seek to improve. The AgChat Foundation 2.0 Conference has been a big help in doing so effectively. Like other management, what works for some may not work here – but we all have our toolbox of things to pull from.

Load yours. Check out the regional conferences upcoming and look for the AgChat Foundation Conference 2014. You won’t regret it – the overwhelm passes and if you’re ready to promote agriculture, this is a great way to learn what tools to do so effectively.



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