Larry Sailer is constantly connected to ag news and market information via his smartphone, iPad, office laptop and piles of newspapers at home near Iowa Falls. Photo Courtesy of IFT Photo by Zoe Martin

“Musings of a Pig Farmer” by Larry Sailer

Back in the 1980s, I became an agvocate.  The term “agvocate” had not yet been invented, and I really had no idea what I was getting into at the time.  I joined the Franklin County Pork Producers and the Franklin County Farm Bureau.

It wasn’t long before the Farm Crisis of the 1980s hit, and I knew farmers like me needed to tell our story.  Unfortunately, I had no clue how to go about it!  My first media interview was with farm broadcaster Von Ketelsen, and in hindsight, it’s a good thing it was with someone who is so “farmer friendly.”  Most of my answers were either “yes” or “no.”

Over the past 30+ years, I have attended as many media training sessions as time allows.  I joined the Farm Bureau Speaker Corps and Operation Main Street, a speakers’ corps for the National Pork Board.  During a Farm Bureau training session about four years ago, I was introduced to Social Media.  Our trainer, Zach Bader, explained how Twitter and Facebook could expand the number of people we could reach with our message.

Then I discovered AgChat!  AgChat is a virtual chat room. This is a place where you can “attend” a meeting – unlimited by chair space.  It allows you to connect with people from virtually anywhere and discuss ag issues.  You can ask questions and get everyone’s opinion.  (Take notice: I used the word “opinion” instead of “answers”!)  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 30 years it’s that there are a lot of opinions and not every question has a right or wrong answer.  That’s why I firmly believe those of us in agriculture must be willing to listen, too.

The founding members of AgChat did what I think was an amazing thing.  They started having seminars to help people like me learn how to use social media to have a conversation with the people, who either are no longer connected to the farm or never have been.

I attended the first agvocacy training session in Chicago in 2010 and was overwhelmed.  Speakers were so passionate about sharing the great message of what we have attained on the farm.  On Aug. 23-24, I attended the third AgChat training session in Kansas City.  It’s amazing how far social media has come!  This time I attended sessions on blogging, making videos (and even met the Petersen brothers) and using Pinterest.  There is really no limit to spreading your message.  Go ahead and give it a try…  our livelihood needs more agvocates!