When I was about six, I was charged with sweeping our calf barn and then tasked with other chores as I grew. I quickly learned that leveraging my strengths, creatively utilizing all the tools and working together would result in the most work getting done.  Our cows gave me all sorts of lessons in leveraging my fairly small frame against 2000 pounds, though they didn’t always necessarily appreciate my creative use of tools. In the fields, I discovered more stones would get picked in our fields when there was more than just my two hands.

I’ve been a part of this business since I was born and I love agriculture as a part of my soul. Yet, I’m also crystal clear that one of our strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses – our independence.  I’ve had the great opportunity to speak for a variety of organizations and agribusinesses through the years and I see agriculture get divided on issues, prices and pride.

In order for agriculture to be in a proactive position long-term and get the REAL story about farming out there, it’s going to take all of us locking elbows. In the last couple of years, I’ve discovered that social media is one of the best places to do that. Why? Sheer numbers of people and the opportunity for farmers to have conversations with people anywhere in the world. And, it’s an interesting dynamic that has actually served to bring agriculture together to effect change. See my Yellow Tail posting if you need a clear case study on the influence people can have.

The desire to see change and influence for the betterment of agriculture gave birth to something we just introduced as the AgChat Foundation.  It’s an umbrella group designed to capture the ideas that have surfaced in the last year and point agriculture’s energy in one direction. We have a farmer-led group that is working to empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms. I’m proud to be a part of it.

And, more than anything, I believe it’s our opportunity to lock elbows and be a little creative. It’s about the collective good of our business.

What is it going to take for different sectors of agriculture to work together? The further demise of public opinion, even more dramatic market shifts or laws dictating what we do on the farm? How can we get the corn farmer down the road to understand that the issues of the hog producer around the corner will impact both farms? I’m not asking everyone to agree.

However, it is essential that we at least have the conversation when we see how HSUS, PETA and Greenpeace have influenced opinions about agriculture. I happen to believe we can leverage our tools in a creative way – and the AgChat Foundation is an excellent place to get started!  By the way, you can see it grow at http://agchat.org.