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Chasing Windmills

With recent aspersions cast on the AgChat Foundation, by a few, I felt inclined to address some of the questions that some may have, who are not familiar with the Foundation and how it was started. I also could not help but recall the following lines from Don Quixote:

Don Quixote: Dost not see? A monstrous giant of infamous repute whom I intend to encounter.
Sancho Panza: It’s a windmill.
Don Quixote: A giant. Canst thou not see the four great arms whirling at his back?
Sancho Panza: A giant?
Don Quixote: Exactly.

The AgChat Foundation’s mission is to empower farmers and ranchers to share their stories through social media platforms. It is our objective to help teach individuals how to utilize technology to share their personal story with the public.

When the Foundation was created, several key issues were agreed upon. First, the Foundation recognized the importance of individuals sharing their own story. Second, the Foundation recognized the importance of building bridges between growers and consumers so that the public could have a direct line to those that grow their food, fiber, fuel and shelter. Third, the Foundation recognized the importance of being inclusive to all commodities and all production methods; that a diverse agriculture that provides choices for consumers is essential.

What makes the Foundation unique is that we simply teach how to use social media platforms, unlike some other endeavors which focus on messaging and talking points. We believe that the power of the conversation comes from the passion and personal perspective of the individual. Some organizations and businesses are not comfortable with this approach, but we feel it is essential, so that the public can see the diversity that exists in American agriculture.

The #agchat hashtag and discussions on Tuesday evenings are the conversations that take place between farmers and ranchers, the public and themselves. Over 2000 individuals are using the hashtag and have participated in the weekly discussions. Each of these individuals speaks for themselves, with the flavor of their own unique perspective; representative of the diversity of American agriculture.

While I can understand how some may think that the hashtag and the weekly conversation are “one in the same,” that is not the case. The weekly conversation was started in 2009 by Michelle Payne-Knoper as a place for people on Twitter to have organized conversations on topics related to agriculture and food and has become a community of great diversity of opinions.

When the founders met to create the Foundation, we spent much time discussing a name. In the end, we all agreed that with our mission to empower people in agriculture to connect and have conversations with the public, AgChat was the most logical choice. It had name recognition already established and was most appropriate for what we wanted to do; help farmers take their stories online.

As the president of the Foundation, I am very appreciative and grateful for the support shown by all of our sponsors thus far and those yet to come, who share in our mission to empower those in agriculture to utilize social media platforms to share their unique perspectives and individual points of view.

Our marquis platform is training — not messaging, not talking points, not spin. We don’t sell influence, doctrine or dogma. We work to teach other farmers and ranchers to use social media to tell their own stories. We do not tell them what to say, nor do any of our supporters. That’s the way it is and that is the way it will stay.

Don Quixote is quoted as saying, “There’s not the least thing can be said or done, but people will talk and find fault.” Such a nugget of truth is atypical for people known for tilting at windmills.

Categories: AgChat Foundation
  1. Susan Ditz
    March 29, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Jeff- I really appreciate your honesty, integrity and transparency about this.

  2. March 30, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    Thank you for this post. I lost sleep last night over some convo’s on Twitter after the agchat was over. I hope those people have read this and understand a little better.

  3. April 1, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    I think sometimes it is hard for people to believe our (farm folks) only agenda is to get to know people better. SM is such a tool to build bridges. Sad that people just attack and assume. Keep up the good work.

  1. April 2, 2011 at 11:49 AM

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