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Photos: Farm and Dairy/Chris Kick

By SAM WILDMAN
Guest Blogger


My independent study at Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute on advocating for agriculture (agvocating) has taken me many places, shown me many new things and helped me communicate with many people all over the country involved in agvocating.

As part of the independent study, Amanda Wagner (who shares the topic) and I, along with our adviser Dr. Carrie Pickworth, wanted to host an event at OSU-ATI for students to come and learn more about agvocating, social media and Ohio agriculture because we realize the importance for students (future producers) to know what is happening today that will affect them, and how they can start promoting agriculture as young professionals.

Beyond expectations

Our event was held May 17, and the turnout was excellent. The three speakers were Dr. Bobby Moser, dean of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Dr. Leah Dorman, with Ohio Farm Bureau’s Center for Food and Animal Issues; and Dan Toland, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

We wanted to cover specific aspects of agriculture that students could relate to easily and be interesting to them as well. These three speakers went above and beyond what I had expected. I want to just briefly describe what was covered so others can understand the importance of our goal as agvocates.

Why is OLCSB important?

Dr. Moser covered aspects of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB), the Ohio agreement with the Humane Society of the United States, and why it is so crucial to know what is going on with these groups.

The history of OLCSB was covered quickly so students could understand the structure of the board and its activities. Dr. Moser explained that the board does not make standards without extensive research from several species-specific subcommittees and a technical advisory committee.

He also covered where we (students) fit into the board and its actions. We have a commitment to being advocates for agriculture, maintaining a safe and adequate food supply, protecting our workers and providing Ohioans with access to locally raised food.

Dr. Moser’s most important comment was that “Ohio livestock care standards are to be ever-evolving, never-ending.”

Animal rights now mainstream

Leah Dorman spoke about the differences between animal rights and animal welfare. She covered this topic with finesse and much action and involvement from the audience.

She also showed us how animal rights groups have progressed in the recent years from radical to mainstream; it wasn’t overnight, but very progressive. This is important for us as producers to understand because there has been very little opposition to animal rights groups, which means they (animal rights groups), are the ones informing consumers about agriculture.

I feel this is bad because their statements are things that have been proven false, and they’re using emotion to sway opinions to their side.

Animal rights groups owned the animal welfare discussion until 2009, when agriculture became proactive to pass Issue 2.

She also encouraged all farmers to comment and make suggestions to the OLCSB.

Power of social media and Internet

Dan Toland spoke about how technology, specifically the Internet, has evolved over time and how it is important for us to learn how to use it as a tool for agriculture and agvocating. He showed us many ways to get involved in agvocating through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, smartphones and blogs.

He explained the benefits of quick access to information on the Internet and then showed us something that absolutely surprised nearly everyone in the room. Toland had an interactive live update of Twitter that could count the number of tweets, and other interactions that used our hashtag (a way to search on Twitter) for #agvocati and at the end of our presentation there were more than 50,000 impressions, which means more than 50,000 Twitter users were exposed to what was being said on Twitter about our agvocate event!

This shows just how fast word travels and how important it is that we provide the story behind what agriculture is.

I talked to Dan the next morning and he told me that overnight we jumped from 50,000 to more than 100,000 impressions for our hashtag #agvocati.

Overwhelmed

The response from students who attended has been overwhelming and I am proud to say that I have seen at least 12 new Twitter accounts from students who attended the event, just 12 hours earlier.

The presentation was a major success and the impact was tremendous. I’m proud that I could be a part of planning it and organizing it from the ground up. Special thanks to all our speakers, my agvocate study partner Amanda Wagner, our adviser Dr. Carrie Pickworth, the agriculture media networks, students, farmers and consumers who saw, heard, or read about what we are doing.

(ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Wildman is a sophomore at Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness and applied economics with a minor in agricultural communications. An eighth generation farmer from South Charleston, Ohio, he works on his family farm (Standing Oaks Enterprises) of 600 acres of corn and soybeans. They also have a 650-sow farrow-to-finish hog unit. Sam also owns Standing Oaks Enterprises Washing Services, specializing in contract washing commercial finishing barns for pork producers. You can follow him on Twitter, @farmboy09, or read his blog, Reflections from a Country Boy.)

The Social Silo is the new “social face” of the newspaper Farm and Dairy. We want to be a community blog about the rural world. About manure. About county fair prize-winning pie recipes. Just not in the same sentence. We want to foster communication between farmers and nonfarmers, to share different perspectives, to make us all think and grow a little. We want to ask questions, and listen to your answers.
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