Ag Blogs -
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 14:10
Let's go to southern California where a conference on social media is
underway. Participants are learning how to utilize the new technology of
social media. Remarkably, one of the speakers is a farmer from rural Kansas.
He is a cofounder of a new entity which is helping thousands of people learn
more about agriculture.
Darin Grimm is a farmer near Hiawatha, Kansas. He has always been interested
"As a high school student, I was interested in computers," Darin said. As a
self-taught computer expert, he did tech support for a couple of local
In 1995, he moved back to the family farm outside Hiawatha near the rural
community of Morrill. "I live in the house where I was born," Darin said. He
continues to farm with his father and partners while maintaining his
interest in technology. In fact, for several years he did consulting on
precision agriculture. Then his interest in technology led him to discover
"As a technology person, I heard about Twitter early on," Darin said. "After
I had been on Twitter for a while, a farmer in Ohio made a list of ag
accounts on Twitter, four hundred or so. I converted that into a list that
was searchable and sent it back to the farmer in Ohio."
The two started an online conversation. As unlikely as it may seem, these
aggies started communicating on Twitter. They were on Facebook as well,
along with a number of other farmers.
This growing interest in social media and agriculture culminated in the
creation of a new group called the AgChat Foundation. Created in April 2010,
the AgChat Foundation is a non-profit organization. Its mission statement is
simple and straightforward: "Empowering farmers and ranchers to connect
communities through social media platforms."
In practice, the Foundation educates and equips farmers and ranchers with
the skill set needed to effectively communicate in this new world of social
media. That means engaging on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Linkedin
and other social media services.
For generations, farm organizations have talked about the importance of
telling agriculture's story. Social media give individual farmers new tools
to tell their story first-hand more effectively than ever. Research shows
that social media are a growing opportunity for farmers to have a stronger
voice in educating people about the business of growing food, fuel, feed and
"Consumers have sincere questions about their food, and it's our goal to
help farmers and ranchers answer questions about how food, fuel, feed and
fiber are produced," said the AgChat website. "We also believe it's all of
agriculture's responsibility to build that connection."
In August 2010, the AgChat Foundation sponsored its first-ever two-day
conference on social media. Some 75 people attended, and it was so
successful that it became an annual event. More than 100 people attended the
most recent conference in Kansas City. AgChat is now doing regional training
sessions as well.
Every Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. Central time, AgChat hosts an online
discussion of timely topics, from USDA school lunch policies to how to
manage a farm during a drought. The organization's website is
Will people discuss agriculture on social media? According to the AgChat
website, when ag groups coordinated "Thank a Farmer" on Twitter during
Thanksgiving 2009, it generated 6.7 million online impressions.
The AgChat Foundation is not a membership organization. It is supported by
sponsorships from individuals and agribusinesses. The foundation has a
national board of directors with members from Oregon to Florida. The
president of the AgChat Foundation is Darin Grimm from the rural community
of Morrill, Kansas, population 270 people. Now, that's rural.
"So many people have so little connection to the farm anymore," Darin said.
"Social media is a way for people to interact with real farmers."
It's time to leave California where a conference on social media is
underway, featuring a Kansas farmer talking about the AgChat Foundation. We
salute Darin Grimm for making a difference by pioneering this innovative
form of communicating about agriculture through technology. The success of
this rural technology initiative makes me all a-twitter.
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at
http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd
Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to
enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The
Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from
the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Unit. A
photo of Ron Wilson is available at
http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/sty/RonWilson.htm. Audio and text files of
Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more
information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit