What does is take to be a game changer in the 21st century? We set out on a mission to find out. All of these people possess the same qualities. While you may or may not agree with them, you can’t deny that they all push every single day to change the status quo. They have changed both the conversation around food and the way with which we do it. They are the leaders, the people who are pushing our industry forward, who chose to do it in the beginning not because of some greater gain but because they saw a future where things could be different. These are the people who believed they could make a difference and therefore are the ones who do.
Nurse Loves Farmer
Nurse. Farm Wife. Boy mom. Believer. That’s how Sarah Schultz of the blog “Nurse Loves Farmer” describes herself. A nurse who fell in love with and married a fourth generation farmer, Sarah and her husband are raising their boys, Braden and Ethan, on the beautiful Alberta prairies where they also raise 6,300 acres of wheat, canola and yellow peas on the family farm. Sarah is passionate about photography, cooking & baking and then writing about it all on her blog. She also loves to share her passion for agriculture by sharing what she learns with her blog readers and the social media world. We think she should add “Agvocate” to that list of descriptors!
“To make a positive difference in the world requires making practical real improvements for both people and animals. Abstract ideology is not enough. You need to get out in the field and do it.” – Temple Grandin
Dr. Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and she has been a pioneer in improving the handling and welfare of farm animals. Temple’s story and achievements are even more remarkable because she was an autistic child, who at the age of two had no speech and all the signs of severe autism. Fortunately, her mother defied the advice of the doctors and kept her out of an institution. Many hours of speech therapy, and intensive teaching enabled Temple to learn speech. As a teenager, life was hard with constant teasing. But mentoring by her high school science teacher and her aunt on her ranch in Arizona motivated Temple to study and pursue a career as a scientist and livestock equipment designer. Through groundbreaking research and the lens of her own autism, Temple brings startling insight into two worlds. An expert on animal behavior, she has designed humane handling systems for half the cattle-processing facilities in the US and Canada, and consults with the meat industry to develop animal welfare guidelines. Temple has won numerous achievement awards, was listed as one of Time Magazine’s most Important People of the Year in 2010 and was the subject of an HBO movie about her early life and career with the livestock industry. Through her work with animals and the autistic, Temple is a true champion for those who often cannot speak for themselves.
Ag Chat Foundation
“Consumers have sincere questions about their food, fuel and fiber, and it is our goal to help farmers and ranchers answer those questions while making lasting connections… The conversation surrounding our products is happening with or without us. When we do not give voice to our stories, we are allowing the FoodBabes and Dr. Ozs of the world, to write our legacies. It is crucial that we stand up and use our #FarmVoices.”- Jenny Schweigert, AgChat Foundation Executive Director
The AgChat Foundation educates and equips farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals and educators with the necessary tools to make meaningful connections with consumers. On paper, its community encompasses over 100,000 on social media platforms. The highly visible #AgChat and #FoodChat conversations have had active attendance by over 15,000 participants who span over 12 different countries. This year, the foundation has added several training opportunities including the successful 2015 Collegiate Congress held in January, the 2nd Annual Pacific Northwest Agvocacy Conference and their National Conference scheduled for November 12-13 in Nashville, TN. Their events have offered trainings which include consumer panels, managing relationships with detractors, blogging inspiration, hands-on sessions such as using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, interactive sessions on photography and video production, time management, reaching beyond the choir, personal branding, podcasting, Prezi and more. New sessions such as organizing and executing farm tours and improving interpersonal connections were recently added to their roster.
Sarah Gayton, Farmers on Film
“The recognition our vision for Farmers on Film has received is overwhelming and it goes to everybody that has helped to turn it into reality since I came up with the idea in 2010. It shows what inspiration can achieve and why the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were so important in the UK.”- Sarah Gayton, Farmers on Film
Sarah Gayton is the founder and driving force behind “Farmers on Film” – a project inspired by the 2012 London Olympic Games. The aim has been to link famers directly to consumers through videos of 3 minutes or less. Sarah recognised the ability to instantly link consumers with producers by using smart phones to scan QR codes on food packaging, allowing them to view a short video on the food producer at the point of sale. These films are also spread via social media. Sarah has campaigned across the UK and into other countries; expending a huge amount of time and effort encouraging food producers to create their own authentic but brief films, and share them. Sarah is also an award winning film maker, award winning artisan baker and has been awarded a medal for her work in Kosovo with the United Nations.
Peterson Farm Bros
“The reason we make YouTube videos and produce social media content about agriculture is because we believe everyone should know the truth about who farmers are and what we are doing. The worldwide community of people producing the food that you enjoy is a passionate, hard working, trustworthy group of people. It’s time we celebrate what farm families do and recognize those of us who dedicate our lives to providing safe and healthy food!”– Peterson Farm Bros
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the Peterson Farm Brothers and seen at least one of their entertaining parody videos. These three brothers grew up and still work on their family farm near Assaria, KS with their parents and sister. Each of them attend or attended Kansas State University, where Greg graduated after majoring in Agricultural Communications and Journalism, Nathan is a junior majoring in Agriculture Technology Management, and Kendal is a freshman majoring in Agribusiness. In June of 2012, they released a parody video on YouTube called “I’m Farming and I Grow It” that quickly went viral, receiving over 9 million views. Since then they have released many more videos and are now up to 35 million total views on YouTube. These videos have given the brothers many opportunities around the world to promote agriculture, however their goal is still to operate the family farm together after college.
The Farmer’s Daughter USA
“My passion for agriculture is rooted in my childhood growing up on our family farm. It’s personal and part of who we are as a family. Through advocating for agriculture, I hope to share that passion and personal connection to agriculture with consumers, as well as defend and support family farms that share our experience.”– Amanda, The Farmer’s Daughter USA
Amanda, “The Farmer’s Daughter USA” is from Southwest Michigan where her family farms 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans. For 26 years, Amanda and her family ran and supplied a roadside market selling their own fresh fruits and vegetables. After graduating college, Amanda attended law school at Michigan State University College of Law and is now a practicing lawyer. She also “ag-vocates” at her blog TheFarmersDaughterUSA.comabout issues facing modern agriculture.
Andrew Campbell – #Farm365
“My passion for farming is a similar one to the majority of Canadian farmers. We love the work we do, are proud of the product we sell & do it all focusing on the animals & land under our care. In today’s world, with consumers having incredible access to information I think it is important for farmers to get out of our comfort zone & actually talk about that passion we have for what we do. It can give a consumer a sense of comfort in knowing what the farmer is doing day to day.”– Andrew Campbell, creator of #Farm365
Andrew Campbell is a farmer with a passion for agriculture advocacy, social media and new technology who made headlines this year when he coined the hashtag #Farm365 and committed to posting real world images of what it’s like to live and work on a farm each day of 2015. Through his family farm, Bellson Farms, he and his family milk holsteins and grow corn, soybeans, wheat and hay in Southern Ontario’s Middlesex County. With his communications company Fresh Air Media, he speaks and works with companies and organizations across Canada interested in harnessing the power of today’s communication tools to inform a consumer about agriculture, food and farm practices. He also works with farmers interested in utilizing new tools and technology (like smartphones).
“Consumers are interested in what we do. We need to see this as an opportunity, not a cause for defensiveness. Most people just want to know how their food is raised so they can buy safe, nutritious food for their family–just like me!” – Debbie Lyons-Blythe
Debbie Lyons-Blythe is a life-long cattle rancher in the Flint Hills of Kansas. She and her husband raised 5 kids helping on the land the Blythe family homesteaded in 1890. Today Debbie raises registered Angus Bulls, markets crossbred bred heifers and started blogging in 2009 atkidscowsandgrass.com to tell some stories about ranch life and answer questions from people who don’t live in rural areas. She is active on social media and ardently encourages others to get involved in agvocacy.
Feed Yard Foodie
“I have been told that I have the passion of a convert. As someone that did not grow up in agriculture, I can truly appreciate both the joy of being a farmer and also the confusion of not understanding where your food comes from. As an advocate for agriculture, I try to close that gap so that customers can have a sense of my life as a beef farmer and feel good about the steak that they proudly feed to their families.” – Anne Burkholder, Feed Yard Foodie blogger
What do you call a foodie who runs a cattle feedyard? A “Feed Yard Foodie”, that’s what! Anne Burkholder grew up like the vast majority of Americans – two or more generations removed from the farm. The native of urban Palm Beach County, Florida was an Ivy League educated athlete, fueled by beef for many years before she ever understood where her beef came from. Anne had never even heard of a feedyard until touring that of her future father-in-law; inaccurately thinking that all cattle traveled straight from the pasture to the packing plant. Two years later (June 1997), she went to work at the feedyard, which she now runs with her husband and three children in Nebraska. Amidst the animals, the land, and the never-ending list of chores, she learned powerful lessons that continue to guide her on her journey of humanely raising food animals. Her “Feed Yard Foodi” blog is a site where people can come to read about the real story of beef, written by someone who actually gets their hands dirty.
“I have always enjoyed sharing photos and stories, but once I found agriculture, something clicked. Getting to know so many incredible farmers, seeing how intertwined their work is with the environment, how deep their passion for it is. There is something sort of magical about that and capturing it to be shared helps more people understand where our food comes from. It’s so much fun that it inspires me to do this stuff on my nights and weekends after my regular job.” – Janice Person
Janice Person is a city girl who didn’t visit a farm until she was in grad school studying journalism. But that first farm trip awakened a passion for the people who grow our food & fiber. Although agricultural communications has long paid the bills, her path in social media has been driven by her personal passion for sharing farmers stories and her enthusiasm for learning from new experiences and people. She started her Twitter account (@JPlovesCOTTON) and personal blog (JanicePerson.com) in 2009 and has become friends with a wide range of farmers through social media. In fact, for the month of April, she is sharing stories about farms representing each letter of the alphabet!
“Today, with technology like smartphones, it’s easy for farmers and ranchers to use a few seconds of their day to show the rest of the world why it is they are so passionate about their jobs.” – Brian Scott, The Farmer’s Life
Brian Scott is a family farmer in northwest Indiana working 2,100 acres with his father and grandfather where they raise corn, soybeans, popcorn, and wheat. Scott is a Purdue Ag Alumni with a Bachelor’s degree in Soil and Crop Management. His farm employs biotechnology, and because it is a hot topic, he advocates for it openly. Through his blog “The Farmer’s Life” and guest articles on other sites such as CNN’s Eatocracy and 12 Most, he writes about daily life on the farm and his family’s use of precision agriculture, GMOs, drones, and cover crops. Brian is also a member of the AgChat Foundation board of directors where he helps others in the ag industry learn how to tell their stories.
“My passion for agriculture comes from its unique potential to have a positive impact on the health of individual people, rural communities and landscapes, and the environment as a whole – there’s no other industry like it! “ – Rob Wallbridge, The Fanning Mill
Rob Wallbridge grew up on conventional dairy and cash crop farms in Ontario, Canada. He currently operates Songberry Organic Farm in Bristol, Quebec with his wife and two young children, supplying vegetables to stores and kitchens in the Ottawa area. Rob is a trained organic certification inspector, a graduate of Ontario’s Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program, and a past board member of the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. He volunteers on the Livestock Working Group of the Canadian General Standards Board Organic Technical Committee and consults widely on organic production and certification. Rob guest blogs forRealAgriculture.com and the Genetic Literacy Project in addition to maintaining his own blog, The Fanning Mill.
“Think of the consumer as a friend. They are not the enemy. Focus on building relationships first, instead of educating. Everyone has emotional connections to food, let’s transfer the same positivity to farming.” –Meaghan Thornhill, Modern Milk Maid
Meaghan Thornhill runs a small dairy farm in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, with her partner Laughlin MacDonald. She grew up in Ontario and never anticipated farming as a career. After graduating from Queen’s University in 2006 with a degree in Psychology, she fell in love with a farmer…and his cows. She had always loved animals, but had never spent much time around cows. She quickly grew to love their quirky personalities as well as the science behind many aspects of farming. In 2012 she joined the farm full time, taking over all breeding decisions and heifer raising. Living on “both sides of the fence”, she saw a great need to connect consumers with farmers. With most of the population a few generations removed from the farm, and a growing desire to learn where their food comes from, she believed that social media was a great way to make connections. She soon launched the Farmers of Canada account. Known as rotation curation, each week a different Canadian farmer tweets about their daily life. In 3 years it grew to over 10,000 followers, reaching people across the world.