Saturday, January 2, 2010

Attention Twitterverse: Direct Marketers, Urban Farmers, New Farmers….You just might need a team of advisors.

So one day I found myself intrigued with the twitter phenomenon. My inquisitive nature forced me join. Much to my surprise, what I found was a large selection of like minding farmers, foodies, agvocates, and businesses. But I found them arguing. Hmm, why are they at odds with one another? We all want the same goal don’t we? Where’s the disconnect? It didn’t take long to figure it out….my way is better than your way….I read it in a book somewhere, so it must be true….NYTimes says so, it must be fact…and now, the big screen theatrically describes it so I’m absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong. Now, I may be a born and bred Kentuckian but I’m not stupid. This ideology is just plain ignorant.

Which brings me to the motivation for this post.

A recent twitter conversation has made me realize that some people just really do not want or believe they need a helping hand. Some, it would appear, prefer to remain in a fantasyland of their own creation, an idealistic view of their beliefs if you will. My way is right so you must absolutely be wrong. This is sad on so many levels and well, I have to question this (It’s my nature. I question everything) because to me, this is peculiar.

Farming, local/regional food systems, livestock, and the meat industry in general are a huge part of my life. I consider myself to be knowledgeable, well-informed, and educated on the subject. I didn’t get this way on my own and I’m constantly learning more from others. This is the very core of farming and the meat industry, constantly learning, adapting, and ever evolving. When we stop listening to all sides of the debate, when we dismiss generational experience in farming or processing, we hamper progress, evolution, and our ultimate goal. We become close minded and ignorant.

Now, I’m a facts chick. It’s safe to say that I love facts. I tend to ignore (or at lease put less weight on) emotional pleas to make our world a better place, so to speak. I want facts from all sides of the debate. I can then evaluate those facts and come to my own hypothesis. So basically, I think for myself. I know this may be a hard concept for some to grasp but thinking for yourself is not really all that hard. I encourage everyone to give a try at least once. You’ll never find me believing something just because I saw it on a website somewhere from some unknown source. I weigh facts and opinion, make an educated decision and continue to evaluate that choice/decision. I never stop learning.

So, back to my reason for this chatter….

Along the way there were several voices that educated me through all aspects of these issues. In business, I would call this my team of advisors. It’s wise to have a team of advisors. You can’t expect to be an expert on every facet of your new venture, whatever it may be. Whether, it’s starting a new farm or shifting your farming operation into direct to consumer retail, or anything else for that matter. So, we surround ourselves with folks in various areas related to our particular operation.

I have an excellent team of advisors in the “real world.” These people range from small niche farmers to large corporate family farmers, to fellow Kentucky slaughter/processing house owners. Our team also consists of an array of professionals from diverse sectors of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture team, along with meat scientists from multiple Universities across the United States and even some beyond our borders. My advisors are numerous. Further nearly weekly advisors would be our microbiology laboratory, USDA segments, University of Kentucky meat and marketing specialists. We even seek council from members at University of Tennessee, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and Retired Tennessee professors (one of my valued). The list doesn’t end there. I seek advice from chefs at our restaurant customer base, financial and small business advisors, etc…but I think you get the idea. We are ever learning, ever growing, and progress never stands still.

Twitter is a superb tool for an “unofficial” team of advisors. Grains of salt are needed of course, but there are quite a few extremely knowledgeable people available at a simple keystroke. And to think, I had to travel, phone, and snail mail my advisors when I need advice. As for my farm, my industry, and my business, I would consider these tweeps my “unofficial” team of advisors.

@iTweetMeat – Penn State Department of Dairy and Animal Science

@tweef32 – Mike Smucker, Smuckers Meats and a fellow slaughter/processor

@CarrieOliver – Carrie Oliver, a professed beef geek with a great attitude and a luv for artisan meats

@CallicrateBeef & @BuyColorado – Mike Callicrate a fellow direct beef marketer who appreciates the marbling & Bill Flentje, both appreciate supporting local farmers and buying meats direct.

@PoppyDavis – Poppy is a great resource for beginner farmers and small farmers

@bmarler – Bill is one heckuva food safety advocate. He’s also a trial lawyer, but I’ll look past that for a change (I’m just teasing Bill). He keeps me on my toes and keeps my food safety/regulation/HACCP knowledge at its peak. Be careful though, you might just find yourself on one of his CNN interviews.

@agchat – Oh #agchat, there are so many things to say here. It could really be its own blog post subject. Founded by @mpaynknoper – This is a weekly live twiversation that takes place Tuesdays from, 8-10pm ET. If you have an interest in food, farming, and all things agriculture related this is the place to be. Meet the real farmers who grow your food, the professionals that prepare it, the consumers who consume it, and all steps in between. I highly recommend this to anyone and everyone.

@foodchat – Kind of a spinoff of @agchat – This is also a live twiversation that centers around food. Join the live streaming convo every 3rd Tuesday from 8-10pm ET. If you eat, you might want to tune in.

Then there’s my fellow beef farmers who I find a great deal of value in…




There are hundreds more twitter users that I find value in, each one in their own way. It’s eclectic, diverse, always entertaining, and well sometimes downright frustrating. This, to me, makes it interesting.

My advice, figure out who your virtual twitter team of advisors are and listen, ask, learn, share, and grow. It’s a much more productive plan than being bull headed, close minded, defensive, and ungrateful.

You just might learn something.