A few days ago marked the one year anniversary of the launch of the AgChat Foundation and I wanted to take a step back to reflect on some of my personal highlights of the last year. This isn’t meant to be an official list, it’s a personal one. It’s a bit heavy on data and the things I’m focused on, but I’ve also tried to be objective on some of the milestones I think really are most important.
10. #Foodthanks – I’ll start the list with this one, I did a blog post on the numbers from this effort and won’t add a lot here, other than this is probably the kind of Foundation activity I enjoy working on the most. I just have a lot of fun planning things like this with a small group, figuring out how to most effectively get the word out, watching the day unfold, and then trying to learn from the experience to improve our effectiveness the next time.
9. This one will surprise a few folks, but there was a specific Tuesday evening #agchat that stands out to me as a significant accomplishment of the Foundation this year. Mike Haley was the moderator and “Humane Animal / Welfare” was the topic. What makes this chat significant was the difficult topic involved, and the admirable way the community responded. Animal welfare issues stir up strong emotions, discussing this kind of topic in a public forum, doing so in a non-confrontational way, where folks can just learn and share, to me represents a major accomplishment.
8. SXSW — The panel, Jeff, Chris, Zach and Emily all did an awesome job and I really like Mark Gale’s summary overview. What also stands out is the effort that went into the nomination/voting process. Kelly Rivard’s blog post on the proposal getting accepted months before the event shows how much bigger and much of a process the SXSW effort was than just a couple of hours in Austin, and Janice Person has a post with lots of SXSW background as well as links to other info.
7. Reaching beyond ag – One of the goals we talk about a lot is reaching specific demographic groups where ag folks can make some personal connections. I’d like to highlight two specific individuals, Ray Prock and Jeff Fowle, combining their love for all things tech, with their location in California (close to much of today’s tech happenings) they’ve become quite active in the tech community, sharing their passion for agriculture with an unlikely audience. Maybe their most well-known connection is with Jeff Pulver and the #140 Conference.
6 – It’s important to realize that the Foundation is very inclusive of the incredible diversity in agriculture. One individual I’d like to highlight here that to me represents the diversity incredibly well is Jan Hoadley. Jan has a small, very unique farm and yet she’s one of the most passionate agvocates I know, someone who fully appreciates that diversity means there’s lots of people who are far different than her that she’s standing up for. And because I’m late on getting this blog post done, I get to share Jan’s latest video, where she shows part of her farm, and also speaks her mind about the recent criticism of the Foundation. This short video represents so much of what we believe at the Foundation, its authentic, it’s spoken from the heart, there’s no PR-hack jobs involved, Jan just says it like she sees it!
5 – The first AgChat Foundation training conference in Chicago has to be on the list of top accomplishments. It probably deserves it’s own blog post, such a great experience. Seeing a diverse audience some together, sharing a single passion. Also unique in that a large number of us knew each other very well from online activities, but had never met in person. Such is the reality of a virtual organization like AgChat Foundation. But seeing what’s happened since we met in August may be the bigger accomplishment. We’ve seen increased involvement and an increased sense of community from those who attended the training, that’s the real definition of a successful event.
4 -Social media leadership in agriculture. This is tough to define, but I really do believe that the AgChat Foundation, in a short year’s time, has clearly established itself as the premier organization in ag social media. Yes, there continue to be a number of diverse and successful folks in agriculture who are not directly involved in the organization, but as a group, I think AgChat has clearly led the way in not only telling ag’s story, but promoting the vision of working together between the wide range of farming practices, production methods and products that exist today. The Foundation isn’t about getting credit, its about empowering others and that’s exactly why credit is deserved. Lots of others in social media deserve credit as well — the list is too long to even start.
3 – The continuation of #agchat and #foodchat. In our fast-paced always changing world, these weekly chats are still around and going strong, still drawing active participation, still carrying out the original mission of bringing ag together. To me it’s a big success story. And for the record, as AgChat Foundation celebrates it’s first birthday, the weekly chats are celebrating their second (and that didn’t happen by accident! )
I’d like to take a break from my list, and highlight an important point. As you scan the above accomplishments, notice how often its about individuals, not the organization. That’s whats so unique about the Foundation, our mission, and social media as a method of promoting something you believe in. Its not about big marketing budgets, “messaging”, or any of the other traditional media promotion efforts. Social media is about individuals, and I highlighted only a handful here, there are many, many more that have contributed in ways too numerous to mention to our first year of success. The last couple of accomplishments take a different approach they look at the broader mission and purpose.
2 – Content: The whole point of social media is sharing, and I think the amount and diversity of ag content that has been created and shared in the last year, whether it’s blogs, YouTube videos, or conversations, updates and pictures on Facebook or Twitter or even new tools like Quora has been incredible. There’s no way the Foundation can claim success for all of this, it’s all about individuals sharing those things their passionate about. But it ranks right near the very top on my list of successes.
1 – There’s a lot of items on this list, and there’s more things I didn’t have room for, but without a doubt, there’s one thing that stands out when we talk accomplishments of the AgChat Foundation over the last year. For me, the absolute biggest success goes to the connected community of diverse agvocates we’ve created. The fact that we’ve got all parts of agriculture, from the biggest corporations, to some incredibly diverse small-farm individuals, out there every day, sharing the vision of an agriculture industry working together to meet the challenges of not only feeding a increasing population but also today providing many products that go far beyond food. That we can discuss difficult issues, doing so without letting differences of practice, scale, culture divide us. To me, that’s been clearly our biggest accomplishment.
I’m sure I missed some important and noteworthy events, if you’ve been involved in the AgChat Foundation, what would you put on a top ten list? If your not involved, I’d love to know what you think of it all!