Agricultural advocacy remains doomed

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Note, 2014: This post was an assignment for a college class, written in 2012. The assignment was to take a position on the future of agvocacy and blog about it. It does not reflect the modern state of agvocacy, and may no longer be accurate in any fashion. I now question some of my decisions when writing it.

If you're mentioned in this article: I no longer remember why you were included in this article. It may be because you were at the top of some Google search, or were on a recommended list. I included five sites on this page, and based entirely off of that number, I may have thrown your site in because it bumped the number up to the assignment's minimum required number of examples.

I don't remember.

I believe that, once a URL works, it should never be disabled. Also, has crawled this page, and removing it here will never remove it from the Internet's memory. That's why I've left this up on my site.

It's often said that social media is the future of journalism, the future of marketing, the future of everything. That success in any field is tied to your social media presence. That if you don't know how to use social media, you won't succeed.

If those truisms are correct, then the future of agricultural advocacy looks grim. A recent assignment for an agricultural communications class has made me realize that the "citizen journalist" paradigm will doom agvocacy.

Consider the Ohio Ag Teachers blog. Its posts are intermittent, irregularly styled, and inconsistently written. Blogspot is meant to be a single-author site, but its posts are authored by at least five different people. A multiple-author system like Wordpress would suit their mode better.

Confessions of a Farm Wife isn't much better. Emily Webel's posts are long odes to the farm life, but her posts destroy readability with long blocks of unbroken text.

Agvocacy isn't all doom and gloom, though. Andy Vance's blog is well-written and well-formatted. Most importantly, he appears to know what he's talking about. Having met Vance in person, I know that he does, and his ability to convey his knowledge online builds credibility for the things he says.

The AgChat Foundation is a prime example of using social media effectively. Its website condenses the Twitter storm that circles the site, taking the lengthy Tuesday twitter meetings focused on #agchat and turning them into short, easily-read blog posts. Social media is the driving force behind this site. It value comes from its participants, not from the original content posted.

AgChat also expands into Facebook, asking questions of its community and getting responses in a popular format. I don't like Facebook because of its privacy decisions, but the site is popular with many many people because it's what they grew up with. They solicit interaction, but don't do much to address peoples' concerns.

Addressing concerns is the most central part of agvocacy, but I see none of it in these posts. AgChat's users address concerns, but agvocacy needs people who go out and use crisis communications to carefully refute opposing articles, if it is to be successful. The best example I have is Advocates for Agriculture, which quotes an article and then refutes it.

Advocates for Agriculture doesn't do a good job at it, though. Through a combination of fallacious statements, they manage to both not refute the articles cited and to make agricultural advocates look sillier.

If agvocates want to be taken seriously, they must combine careful crisis communications with impeccable writing and stylish website formatting. They must be everywhere at once, ready to defend and promote agriculture.