Recently, people from all walks of life
gathered at the Fox Theater in Hutchinson, Kansas, for 140 Conference
State of Now: Small Town. The purpose of the conference was for people
across the globe to share their stories and ideas on how to attract
attention to small town or rural life.
According to the 140
Conference, this event “provides a platform for the worldwide online
community to: listen, connect, share and engage with each other, while
collectively exploring the effects of the emerging real-time internet on
business. It creates serendipity in talking to each other, sharing
ideas across industries, and exchanging thoughts with people like you
and not like you, or in rural terms, cross-pollination of ideas.”
the population 40,000 of Hutchinson may not be considered a small town,
it is the smallest host city of 140 Conference, compared to others such
as New York City and Tel Aviv, but still large enough to hold an
The event included topics and speakers such
as “The beauty of small ag” by Carin Zinter, Sunderland, Massachusetts
and Lance Chastain, Andover, Kan.; “I’m farming and I grow it,” by Greg
Peterson, Assaria, Kan.; “Do small towns have a future?” by Becky
McCray, Hopeton, Oklahoma; “Looking into the faceless big ag,” by Carrie
Mess, Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, Janice Person, St. Louis, Missouri and
Kansans, Debbie Lyons-Blythe and Jodi Oleen.
For Nicole Small, a
farmer and blogger from Neodesha, Kan., this event presented an
opportunity to learn as well as connect with people she had only
interacted with online before.
“Other organizations always tell us
we need to share the story of agriculture, but they don’t give us the
platform to do it, and then they don’t support us when we do share our
story on social media.” Small said. “These conferences give us the nuts
and bolts of how to share our stories, as well as the face-to-face
contact with the people who can help us do so.”
Small’s interest in sharing her story through social media came after one of her sons brought home a flyer from school.
son brought home a cute little mini magazine from the National PTO, and
on the back cover it had an advertisement for something along the lines
of mom’s for antibiotic awareness, and if you scanned the QR code it
sent you to a site to contact your Representive in D.C. asking to limit
and control antibiotic use in livestock,” she said.
Small contacted the school, and emailed the information out to her
friends explaining why she wasn’t happy with this. Her determination
eventually landed her a spot on Trent Loose’s radio show, where he
challenged her to advocate for agriculture more than she was doing
Small explained that social media has helped her teach agriculture to a more diverse audience.
a great way to talk to consumers we wouldn’t have the opportunity to
reach otherwise,” she added. “On my Facebook page I have followers from
New York to San Antonio, Texas, who don’t live on a farm. It provides me
the chance to tell my story in place instead of going somewhere and
talking to each person individually.”
To Small, her favorite part
of the 140 Conference State of Now was working face-to-face with people
she interacts with daily online.
“You form a connection with these
people online, but meeting them in person you create a personal
connection, which is beneficial in order to have a strong relationship,”
Small said the benefits of this conference compared to others was that people in attendance were not all in agriculture.
wasn’t all agriculture, so you could see how other people use social
media and adapt it for yourself in order to reach bigger audiences,” she
Both the State of Now conference and Small discussed how
important social media is becoming in order for agriculturists to not
only educate the public, but each other.
“The connections I’ve
made with other farm moms through social media have helped me tell my
story better,” Small said. “If I post something and people have
questions, but I’m busy and can’t answer them right away, others are
quick to step in and answer these questions.
“All of agriculture
has to work together. It can’t be farmers vs. ranchers or conventional
vs. organic, there are only two percent of us out here, it’s about
banding together,” she concluded.£