Archive for the ‘CommonGround’ Category

Final Farewell

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Today is the day. After nearly three years, this is my last day in the Kansas Corn & Grain Sorghum office.

It has been a pleasure to work with all our growers and to meet so many genuine folks. Thanks to social media, I’ve been able to connect and learn from farmers across the nation—and world. With the U.S. Grains Council I had the opportunity to travel with corn growers to China for the Spring Corn Tour last May. I learned about Chinese corn production and gained more knowledge about exports.

2011 Spring Crop Tour to China with U.S. Grains Council

One of my favorite projects over the past year has been CommonGround Kansas. I’ve met so many strong and talented women who inspire me. Thanks to each of the volunteers who have been a pleasure to work with.

CommonGround Shared Voices Conference

I’m leaving the communications specialist position with a strong social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, a brand new website (if you haven’t checked it out yet, please do), new logos for the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Corn Commission, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers, and branding for Agriland at the Kansas State Fair.

Topeka Farm Show Display

The best compliment I received came from one of our corn growers at Commodity Classic the first year I attended. He asked me to tell him about my family farm back home and was shocked when I informed him that I didn’t grow up on a farm and I didn’t study agriculture in school. I must have blended in well! He asked how I was able to share so much about agriculture though our website and social media platforms and I explained that everything I had learned had come from the research I did or the folks I met.

Wiscombe plants corn near Overbrook, KS

I thank those who answered my e-mails, tweets, and Facebook questions. A special thanks to Pat and Mary Ross and Kirk Wiscombe for letting me visit their farms each time I asked. I greatly appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedules to teach this Iowa girl a few things about Kansas agriculture!

At Ross-Nunemaker Farms in Lawrence, KS

I’m on to new adventures at William Jewell College in Liberty, MO where I’ll be the Communications Manager for the Harriman-Jewell Series. Please continue to keep in touch with me on Facebook and Twitter! It’s been a pleasure getting to know each of you.

Farewell,

DeEtta

Social Media & the Customer Experience

By DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Social media is a large part of my life. Some of it was on accident, but a lot of it I brought on myself. Even five years ago I wouldn’t have thought social media would be such a large part of my career. I currently manage social media for Kansas Corn and Grain Sorghum through this blog, Twitter, Facebook and occasionally YouTube. Away from my job responsibilies checking Twitter and Facebook are a regular part of my daily routine and I’m currently obsessed with Pinterest and finding the latest fashions, graphic design inspiration and dinner recipes.

My friend Travis (former news producer and currently the Multi-Media Producer-in-Residence at Wartburg College) would be very disappointed to hear that I haven’t watched the morning or evening news in… well, nearly two years. Don’t worry, I don’t have my head buried in the sand. I am up to date on current events thanks to text alerts from my local news station and following various news outlets through social media.

Social media isn’t a trend and it isn’t going away any time soon. It is revolutionizing the way we distribute and obtain information. So, what does this mean for companies, and specifically the agricultural industry?

I can instantly convey a message to my 2,000 followers. Will they all see it? Most certainly not, but it has the potential to spread like wildfire. People share experiences and advice through social media. This is done instantaneous through social media. In the past, a person would probably have to wait to tell his/her friends about an experience. Today, with the use of smartphones and tablets, we can send a message (factual or not, good or bad) about a grocery store product or a conversation with farmer instantly to the internet.

My friend/mentor, Dr. Bill Withers recently posted this photo on Facebook about a visit to Granite City:

The caption read, “It’s THIS SIMPLE! And I asked our waitress if she was trained to do this… “Yes!” Great QCS [Quality Customer Service]. My Granite City leftover container showed Dish, Date, Server, and “GC” brand-logo, all signed by her… http://www.gcfb.net/

Did I click on the link which lead to their website? Yep, sure did! Did I happen to check out the restaurant locations in my area and browse the menu too? Uh-huh.

Bill also wrote, “And, would I ask for Sam’s server-section next time down there? Of course. When you TRAIN for QCS, everyone wins, trust me. And yes, “leftovers” were delicious tonight!”

Not only did his experience leave a good impression on him, but also his Facebook followers- including myself.

Word-of-mouth is huge and a very valuable part of marketing. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations; 14% trust advertisements. While it’s great for ag groups to sponsor events and purchase media buys, it’s obvious that the farmer-consumer conversations are a must. This is one of the many reasons I enjoy the CommonGround movement so much. Our farm women volunteers do their best to reach out to the consumer (both in person and through social media) to tell them about their farms and the food they produce. One good conversation with a consumer is valuable. Hopefully, that consumer will share the good experience she had with others.

Ross Schafer, the author of Nobody Moved Your Cheese, Customer Empathy, The Customer Shourts back, Are You Still Relevant, and Grab More Market Share recently spoke at the National Agri-Marketing Conference. One of the many great things he said was, “When you study human behavior, you will always win.” Think about that for a moment. When you’re at a store, what motivates you to buy certain products? Name brand? Cost? Health? Convenience?

Emotions. Emotions influence every purchase decision. When consumers write to complain about a business they often use the words rejected, unimportant, or embarrassed. Farmers need to be able to communicate to consumers in a way that shows them that their concerns are valid and that they care. Let’s not overthink this- people like to feel cared for. 

Women don’t just buy a brand- they join it then talk about it. You better believe that I’ll be talking about good purchasing experiences (such as my recent purchase from Gracie & Me Design on Etsy) and bad ones (my recent DISH fiasco) on social media platforms.

Today, consumers want NOW. The faster we can respond, the better. “Normal business hours” no longer exist. Consumers can shop online at all hours and more and more banks are opening on Sundays or have later hours.

Earlier I mentioned how Bill told all his Facebook followers about his great experience with Granite City.  He went a step further and commended the restaurant, personally. Bill received the following response shortly later, which was also documented on Facebook:

Social customer service at its best? Most definitely.

The agricultural industry will continue to grow in social media. (If you don’t think we’re already active, just search #agchat or #foodchat on Twitter.) My hope is that though face to face conversations, social media and traditional media, farmers will continue to build relationships with consumers. So many folks are disconnected from livestock and fields but want to know more about food. They are listening. Are we talking? More importantly do we care for our consumers? Certainly! Let’s show them by going above and beyond.

 
Additional resources:

9 Ways Top Brands Use Social Media for Better Customer Service

Supermarkets and the social Web

Social Media- Generation II

Cause Matters: Ag & Food Resources

Give Good Customer Service Through Social Media

How Social Media has Changed Customer Service

Kudos to Hy-Vee

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

The agricultural industry plays defense time and time again. Food is often a victim of misunderstandings, as most consumers are generations removed from the food source and the process. Food is an entry point to climate change, employment, health, immigration and the economy; making it a pretty easy target.

The most recent misunderstanding: “pink slime” or “lean, finely textured beef”. This controversy over processed food has been all the rage in the media recently.

“The more people are disconnected with their food supply and the sources of their food, the more questions they will have, and we understand that,” said Craig Letch, director of food safety and quality assurance for South Dakota-based Beef Products Inc. But, “We don’t produce ‘pink slime.’ We produce 100 percent quality lean beef. That’s it. That whole thing is a farce. There’s no substance to it.”

Hy-Vee, a Midwestern supermarket chain, ranks among the top 20 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the United States, and for good reason. Hy-Vee’s “helpful smile” is seen in the meat counter aisle this week as they listened to their customers and released this statement yesterday regarding lean, finely textured beef (LFTB).

“Hy-Vee takes great pride in listening to the voices of our customers and offering them outstanding values on the quality products they want to buy. Following our recent decision to stop purchasing ground beef containing Lean Finely Textured Beef, we heard from many customers who asked us to continue carrying this product. They’ve sent us a clear message: They want a choice when it comes to ground beef, and they want to support companies that provide thousands of jobs in our Midwest trade area. In response to this feedback, Hy-Vee has made a decision to offer both kinds of ground beef – both with and without Lean Finely Textured Beef. Both products will be identified so customers can determine for themselves which type of ground beef they want to buy. This transition is underway and will be implemented in our retail stores as quickly as possible. We thank our customers for sharing their views on this issue, and encourage them to continue telling us what we can do to improve their shopping experience at Hy-Vee.”

I believe Hy-Vee deserves to be commended for their service to consumers and not buckling under the media hype. Consumers and “agvocates”, thanks for making your voice heard and asking for what you wanted from the grocery-store chain.

There is no reason for lost jobs and hurt families over something that’s a non-issue. 236 families have temporarily lost at least one income at just the Garden City, KS plant alone. Hy-Vee took a risk and stepped out in support. Let’s show them we have their back. Let them know on Facebook or write Hy-Vee to show your appreciation.

Letters can be sent to:
Hy-Vee, Inc.
Attn: Rose Comer, VP
5820 Westown Parkway
West Des Moines, IA 50266-8223

You can also fill out a comment form here.

Hy-Vee continues to show that consumers come first. Please join me in thanking them.

For more information on LFTB:
Get the Facts on Lean Beef Trimmings

Meat-processing company gets chewed up in ‘pink slime’ uproar

NPR: Why ‘Pink Slime’ Isn’t That Different From Other Meat Products

Pink slime push-back: Someone smarter, or more emotional, than me has to figure this out

Are Vegetarians Happier?

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Beef and chicken gyro with brussels sprouts and fruit salad

I recently saw an article posted on Facebook from The Huffington Post called “Vegetarian Diet Could Make You Happier and Less Stressed, Study Shows”. I consider myself an optimistic, healthy and happy omnivore, so I decided to take a look.

The article states that embracing a vegetarian diet could make you happier and less stressed because of fatty acids in meat and fish. It states that “diets that include meat and fish are higher in arachidonic acid (AA), an animal source of omega-6 fatty acids. Much of the meat Americans eat today is quite high in AA: The average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid profile of modern grain-fed meat is 5 times higher than grass-fed meat.”

Shalene McNeill, who has a Ph.D. in human nutrition and is executive director for human nutrition research at the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, acknowledges that “if you feed (cows) grass, you can slightly increase the omega-3 content, but if you look at it in terms of a whole diet, it’s not a significant advantage to human health.”

Though I experience stress (usually self-inflicted), running has become a great outlet for me. Personally, I would become very grumpy (and stressed) without beef, pork and poultry as a regular part of my diet. I think it’s safe to say as a whole, Americans are increasingly overfed yet undernourished so it’s essential that we get the most nutritional value from the food and beverages we enjoy. I enjoy meat. I’m not turning vegetarian.

What are the benefits of consuming meat? Since meat contains a great deal of protein, it repairs and promotes the building of body tissues and produces antibodies that will protect the body from infections, therefore strengthening the immune system. Since meat contains all the essential amino acids, it ranks as one of the best sources of protein.

Meat is rich in iron, zinc and selenium which results in forming hemoglobin that transports oxygen to different parts of your body, tissue formation and metabolism, and breaking down fat in the body. Meat also contains Vitamin A, B and D which promote good vision, stronger teeth and bones as well as support the central nervous system.

What do I think is the biggest benefit of meat consumption? It tastes excellent. Therefore, it keeps this girl happy, healthy and loving life!

Additional Resources:
Kansas Beef Council
Kansas Pork Association
CommonGround
National Cattleman’s Association
National Pork Producers Council

Kansas Joins CommonGround Program

Farmers Greet Guests with Delicious Food and Genuine Conversations at State Launch

The Kansas State University Lady Wildcats may have shot better hoops than the University of Kansas Lady Jayhawks Saturday night, but the real winners were the farm women who started a conversation about food at Allen Fieldhouse prior to the game.  Teresa Brandenburg, Kara James and LaVell Winsor hosted dinner to launch the Kansas arm of the CommonGround program—a national grassroots movement, designed to bridge the gap between the women who grow food and the women who buy it.

The event brought together members of the media, academics and government officials to discuss modern farming. During the dinner, guests were invited to partake in conversation about farming and food while enjoying delicious food and the company of the new Kansas CommonGround volunteer farmers.

The reason Kansas became a part of the CommonGround movement was clear during dinner as Alton, Kan. CommonGround volunteer, Teresa Brandenburg explained, “many consumers are confronted by a barrage of inaccurate information and rumors about food. All three of us (volunteers) want to share our stories and personal understanding of agriculture and food.” She also noted, “who is better to tell that story than someone like me, a mom, and a farmer?” Throughout the dinner, the volunteers shared anecdotes from their farm and used their agriculture knowledge and expertise to address guest’s concerns about our nation’s food supply.

Many questions were about the locavore movement and organic farming, but LaVell Winsor, a grain farmer from Grantville, Kan. said, “many of the topics we discussed centered around the facts on organics and implications of a shift toward eating locally produced foods.” She enjoyed being able to address misconceptions throughout the evening. “Some of the attendees pulled me into a discussion on the benefits of organics to ask for my thoughts.  I explained that, while farmers in our country do provide a variety of healthy, safe options, there is no evidence that organic production results in a more nutritious, healthier choice. Really, they could rest assured that they were providing their family with the wholesome nourishment they need whether they buy organic or conventionally produced foods. It was great being able to put a face and a name with agriculture so that people knew they can contact a real person about farming and food!”

To close out the evening, guest were encouraged to fill their reusable CommonGround grocery bags with facts about food production and recipes the volunteers shared from their own kitchens. Following the dinner, the entire group was invited to join in the festivities and watch the University of Kansas women’s basketball team take on their rivals from Manhattan.

“As a Kansas CommonGround volunteer, I hope our guests left with a better understanding of how food is grown and that, as farmers, we want to speak with the public about what we do,” said Karra James, CommonGround volunteer from Clay Center, Kan. “When farmers like myself say something about food I think our message comes from a more genuine place because we are connected directly to agriculture.”

The CommonGround program is moving forward in 15 states including Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dokata, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota. The movement will continue to grow and expand nationwide.

Want to join the CommonGround Conversation? Stay tuned for more CommonGround Kansas updates and what you can to help.

Website: www.FindOurCommonGround.com

YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/FindOurCommonGround

Twitter: www.twitter.com/commongroundks

Twitter Hashtag: #CGConvo

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CommonGroundKansas

Blog: http://commongroundkansas.wordpress.com/

About the volunteers:

Teresa Brandenburg from Alton, Kansas

Teresa was the 2006 American Honey Princess, crown and all.  But that hardly serves as her only contribution to agriculture. Starting out, Teresa grew up in a small town in Iowa where her dad drove a truck hauling farm commodities. Teresa started raising livestock with her family when she was 10.  Now, she and her husband, Luke, are the fourth generation on his family’s farm. Their son, Jacob, represents the fifth generation.  She is currently serving on the Kansas Soybean Association Board of Directors, and enjoys working with her husband to raise cattle, corn, milo, soybeans and wheat.

LaVell Winsor from Grantville, Kansas

LaVell has a unique perspective on agriculture, having worked as a farmer with responsibility for merchandising and managing grain sales while keeping financial records, and outside of the farm with other growers as a business consultant specializing in risk-management.  Coupled with her previous experience in succession and estate planning, LaVell understands the vast array of financial issues facing farmers and agriculture as a whole.

Karra James From Clay Center, Kansas

Karra works with her husband Derek on his parent’s farm to grow grain, raise cattle and, more importantly, their elementary school-aged son and daughter.  Having earned a degree in Food Science and worked in the food safety field, Kara understands the science behind many of the questions consumers have about their food. As she increases her involvement on the farm, she also broadens her perspective on the modern technologies and techniques they use every day.

Lori Deyoe From Ulysses, Kansas

Farming is Lori’s heritage from several generations back on both sides of her family, and her work has always reflected that. She is a farmer’s daughter, the wife of a cattleman and mom to two children. Even her education, a degree in agricultural economics with minors in animal science and women’s studies from Kansas State University, is rooted in agriculture. Before Lori and her husband started a family, she worked as the assistant grain manager at an elevator in town. And currently, Lori coordinates logistics for their small beef feed yard; handles the accounting; and writes on their blog about agriculture. No need to say it – this woman is all about farming.

About CommonGround™

CommonGround is a grassroots movement to foster conversation among women – on farms and in cities – about where our food comes from. CommonGround was developed by the United Soybean Board (USB) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) in an effort to give farm women the opportunity to speak with consumers using a wide range of activities. USB and NCGA provide support and a platform for the volunteers to tell their stories. The opinions and statements made by the volunteers are not necessarily representative of the policies and opinions of USB or NCGA.

Food Day- 365

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

A couple weeks ago I noticed something different about the bananas I picked up at the grocery store. They had a sticker on them advertising some sort of holiday, called “Food Day,” taking place on October 24. Naturally, being an advocate for agriculture, I was instantly curious.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has launched Food Day, a campaign to “change the way Americans eat and think about food.” CSPI says that Food Day is designed to “encourage people to support healthy, affordable food grown in a sustainable, humane way.” Sounds like a slogan for agriculture to me! Farmers want to produce healthy food for their families, their communities and the rest of the world. We all want affordable food. Farmers and ranchers are practicing sustainability and humane animal welfare daily.

On the Food Day website, there are six key points outlined as goals. I’ve got beef with some of these points and would like to go through each of them to share some thoughts.

1) Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods.

Of course! Farmers and ranchers want to provide the world with safe, healthy and affordable food. Remember that these folks feed their families the food they produce.

2) Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness.
Farmers were the first environmentalists. With today’s farming techniques, it’s possible to have great yields, while improving the soil and protecting the environment. By caring for the land and the environment, farmers can continue producing great crops that help provide quality, safe food. Often times, farm land is passed down through generations so growers want to ensure that their land is well cared for. I won’t get into subsidies but Caci, a farm wife from South Carolina, explains farm subsidies further on her blog.

3) Expand access to food and alleviate hunger.
Farmers and ranchers support efforts to alleviate hunger in our own country, as well as across the globe. You will find that these folks donate to food banks and a variety of charitable causes. Here’s just one example. Today, one farmer produces enough food in one year to feed 156 people. If we relied on the food production systems of 1950, as some are suggesting, approximately 150 million people living in the U.S. today would be without food. That’s everyone in the 13 largest U.S. states, hungry! Additionally, placing restrictions of the U.S. food system that limit the ability to produce the food we need will increase the cost of food and limit healthy, affordable food choices for all of us, including those who can least afford it. Today’s food system works to address hunger and food insecurity, and to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.

4) Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms.
Wait, what exactly is a factory farm? As Chuck Jolley, a Kansas City freelance writer wrote for The Pork Network, “Those big, bad, evil factory farms? Most of them are run by your neighbor, his wife and kids. Maybe there are even a few grandchildren lending a hand. And they offer employment in areas where there aren’t a lot of other opportunities. They are the leading businesses in rural America, producing billions of dollars worth of goods at a scant few pennies on the dollar. They feed most Americans and a stunning portion of the rest of the world and, hopefully, your neighbor, his wife and kids can go to bed at night, satisfied with a job well-done and a lifestyle they love.”

As Dawn Caldwell, a Nebraska producer writes in her blog. “Regardless, if we have 10 or 10,000 animals, if we don’t treat them well, they won’t treat us well. It takes a special kind of person to own or work on a farm – there aren’t many of us left here in the U.S. We are a few proud folks doing our best to continually improve farming methods and products for a rapidly growing population.”

Today, 98 percent of all farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Actually, just two percent of America’s farms and ranches are owned by non-family corporations. Size shouldn’t define a family farm or “factory farm”. If global food production is to more than double by 2050, there’s enough work to be done by both large and small farms.

Like you, farmers and ranchers expect every ounce of their food to be healthy, affordable, and most importantly, safe. That is why they go to great lengths to care for their animals. Not only is the right thing to do, but animals that are threatened or sick simply will not produce as well as healthy animals. With constant temperature monitoring and on-call veterinary care, America’s farmer and ranchers pride themselves on adhering to the strictest quality assurance and certification standards.

5) Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
The farmers I know are supportive of free enterprise. Parents are best equipped to make nutritional decisions for their families. The agricultural community wants to continue an open dialogue with consumers. If you have questions concerning the production of your food, ask a farmer. Here is a list of producers who would be happy to address your questions and concerns.

6) Support fair conditions for food and farm workers.
Agriculture is a vital part of our lives and our economy. U.S. agriculture and related industries account for one in 12 jobs nationwide. We want to provide fair wages and conditions for all workers.

Food Day conversations and activities will be taking place across the nation on October 24 but farmers and ranchers are speaking up about the food they produce every day. Now, more than ever, farmers are noticing the disconnect between agriculture and the consumer and are doing something about it. Join the conversations on Twitter regarding food production by following #FoodD, #FoodDay365 and #CGconvo. Below is a list of resources that may be helpful in answering your questions about food.

Resources:
Registered Dietitian’s Food Day Pledge Takes Aim at What’s Wrong With Most Advice

Shouldn’t Every Day be Food Day?, The Center For Food Integrity

Real Farmers, Real Food

Food Dialogues, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance

CommonGround

Cause Matters, Connecting Gate to Plate

Aunt Velma’s Strong Hands and Warm Heart

By DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

Last week I attended my great-aunt Velma’s funeral. Velma passed away at the age of 87 in my hometown in Southwest Iowa.

After graduating from high school, Velma taught in three one-room country schools, Eureka No. 1, Eureka No. 8 and Jackson No. 6 for six years. She later married a farmer and gave birth to six children.

As I sat through the service last Friday listening to Velma’s children and grandchildren speak, I caught onto something each of them mentioned. Velma was not “just a housewife” but a partner in the family farm. She worked side by side with her husband with all the outside chores and kept records of transactions.

Velma, just like many women in agriculture, was a hard worker on and off the farm. Raising children, cooking meals, cleaning the house, growing crops, caring for animals, keeping records, and tending to the garden were all in a day’s work. When time allowed, she would also squeeze in some of her personal interests such as reading, genealogy, local history and sending cards and letters to family and friends. More often than not, we don’t give credit to the women who represent family farms across the U.S.

If you are not familiar with an initiative called CommonGround, I encourage you to check it out the website. CommonGround is a collaborative effort created by the National Corn Growers Association and the United Soybean Board. It was developed to help develop strong grassroots campaigns that provide farm women with the tools and opportunities to speak directly with the public about farming.

Nebraska and Iowa both launched their CommonGround initiatives at Hy-Vee stores in the city, giving consumers an opportunity to speak one-on-one with the CommonGround spokeswomen. Through this direct, open communication, the shoppers learned the true story about agriculture without media filters while the new spokeswomen developed a better understanding of the concerns facing the 98.5 percent of the U.S. population no longer involved in agriculture.

I am certain that Velma’s passion for the land and putting healthy, bountiful food on the table will live on through many. Women like Velma are truly an asset to American agriculture.

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