I recently had the honor of being on a panel at the Agvocacy 2.0 conference in Charlotte, NC. The conference is aimed at training farmers and ranchers on how to use social media to tell their story. I was joined on this panel — Perspectives Around the Plate — by Kristen Davis, a cooperative extension agent, Christa Threlfall, a mom blogger, and Scott Hollingsworth, a local chef. We were asked about our connections to food, how the Internet shapes our food purchasing decisions, and how active we are with social media.
We were also asked if we’ve ever used the Internet to reach out to farmers, and what would we like to learn from farmers and ranchers. It was a great discussion and overall the conference was fascinating. The opening keynote speaker was Jay Baer, one of the best marketers in America, who did a stellar job of crafting his talk to an agricultural audience known as Agnerds — most all the farmers in the room have smart phones. Many use apps to help with their agricultural work and many are engaged on Twitter.
The conference is organized by The AgChat Foundation, which hosts the #agchat and #foodchat hashtags on Twitter. After speaking with attendees, one observation we shared is that, as social media-engaged registered dietitians using #RDchat, a monthly twitter chat that serves as a way to share great links and chatter between registered dietitians, we could be better at reaching out to those outside of our profession, including farmers and the public. It is vital that we familiarize ourselves with and work alongside our food producers, having them as special guests on the chats or interviewing them for our blogs (something I once did).
The conference did touch on some candid and topical matters, with attendees asking my panel questions or making points about GMO and biotech, growth hormones and the concept of what “local” means. It was very thought provoking that in some colder states, “local” in winter months would mean very little to eat. Also, those who use biotech feel that the media paints them in a bad light. And interestingly, given that most of the farmers in the room were conventional farmers and we weren’t sure how our answers would go down, everyone on my panel stated that we purchase hormone-free meat, eat mostly organic and are not keen on GMO.
But despite differences, I was impressed with the conference and the friendliness of those involved — some were conventional farmers and ranchers, and others organic, but they all seemed to respect each other and get along. As a dietitian, it personally breaks my heart to see the bickering related to this issue on Twitter — we need to respect the right for people to choose their own food and have polite discussion while learning from each other.
It was wonderful how the attendees were so eager to open a dialogue and learn from us about how they can share their story and connect. They are also open to farm tours, both for RDs and the public. This could be a great opportunity for the dietetics profession to join forces with and learn from our hard-working and passionate food producers.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: For those on Twitter, check out #agchat weekly on Tuesdays from 8-10 p.m. ET and chime in and have fun connecting with our nation’s farmers and ranchers. #RDchats take place on the first Wednesday of the month at 8 p.m. ET and are hosted by Janet Helm