Last week I attended the AgChat conference in Nashville. The opportunity to spend 3 days putting a face with the twitter handles and avatars I have been talking to for the last year, was a pretty awesome experience. All of the online friends I talk to everyday are now real life friends. It was a great experience to be in the room with 100 farmers, ranchers, and ag professionals that have the same interest in advocating for agriculture. In my eyes, personal communication has been and always will be agriculture’s strongest suit. That may be a bit naive in today’s world of rapidly advancing technology, but call me old-fashioned, it’s my story and I’m stickin to it.

Going into the AgChat conference, I was asked to co-present a workshop on blogging, share my skills and a few things I’ve learned along the way. I consider myself a novice blogger. I don’t understand SEO (search engine optimization), writing HTML code, or even using all of the tools available on WordPress. But apparently, people like what I have going and want to hear what I have to say.

Not gonna lie, going into a “social-media” conference, I felt a bit intimidated going in with only my so-called “dumbphone” and bulky laptop while everyone else sits there with the latest pads, tablets, smartphones, and downsized computer gadgets. And I felt a bit intimidated in the mobile technology workshop where it was all about smartphone apps. There wasn’t even a hint of what information can be gained via text message. I know I’m not the ONLY person still texting from the farm. To be honest, when it came to technology, I felt like I really didn’t belong. I was kinda made to feel like I must have the latest technology to stay relevant in social media. To this point I am kinda disappointed in the AgChat Foundation. Are we running the marathon and leaving behind our teammates? I know I am NOT the only one in agriculture, farming or ranching that is short of smart phone technology, or the money to spend on latest version of the iPad. And I believe AgChat will suffer by leaving behind these people in an effort to gain the edge on technology and social media. We do not need to leave behind daily, face-to-face communication with the person standing next to us. Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations from the conference.

Back to the personal communication topic, over the course of the entire conference, even though it was a “social media” subject, there wasn’t much discussion of face-to-face communication. I even spoke up at the Q&A session at the end of the conference and suggested that we remember that despite all of our technology, we can’t leave behind face-to-face communication or even our neighbors in our back yard. We get over-zealous with reaching people across the globe, and forget about the neighbors in our back yard who have the same questions. My strongest ties in advocacy for agriculture have developed from initial personal communication. People next to us in church, or at the next table in Arby’s want to know about food too! I have had some great conversations at the meat counter in Walmart, sparked by noticing a confused look at the meat options.

So with saying all of this I ask, What is your agenda when it comes to blogging, or advocating for agriculture? Are you setting out on a mission to convert, educate, and inform consumers about all their misconceptions of production agriculture and food? Or are you sharing a message simply for the love of it, in hopes that the message will reach responsive ears and eyes? When I started blogging, it was with a purpose of sharing the events in my life on the ranch, sharing my passion for cattle production, and dropping a few facts along the way. I have veered from that course by trying to “keep up with the Jones” of the social media world. I’ve been told by SM professionals that I need to cater my message to gain the non-farm audience, appeal and connect to consumers, and change-up my posts to include non-farm material in the process. To that I say, thank you but no thank you. I started blogging to share with the world my passion of ranching, and that’s what I need to focus more on. If readers see that I have a passion for what I do, show enthusiasm about it, and am sharing my message in an authentic manner, they’ll follow if they want. The Pioneer Woman didn’t get her spot on Food Network by telling people what the should or shouldn’t eat. She was simply being herself.

Social media and blogging should be an extension of our real life conversation. It shouldn’t take its place. I may never be a network celebrity, I just hope my readers will enjoy reading about my passion as much as I love living it. To this I say, My day job is more fun than your vacation.

Kinda took a round about way of getting here, but ask yourself, What is the agenda behind your efforts?