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    The Embodiment of Service - #MPKBest Twitter User of the Year

    The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” ~ Mitch Albom

    This, in a nutshell, is what I think about Michele and how she lives her life. I respect, value, and aspire to do the exact same thing. Michele not only has an impact on the #agricultural community, she motivates others to do the same thing; make an impact. 

    In today's world, with social media tools, information can go viral, fast. In conjunction blogging has a huge impact on society, given that more and more people are "dialed in" to blogs. Michele understands this, and knows full well that we, in agriculture, need to "find our voice". Michele has dedicated herself to the ag industry and this mantra. 

    More importantly than ideals, is the ability to execute: As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stated "A really great talent finds its happiness in execution." If that is the case, Michele is certainly happy. Actions speak louder than words, so don't just take my word for it. Just have a look at #agchat and #foodchat on #twitter. Michele founded both of these open forums on twitter and the impact has been phenomenal. #Agchat has been a hub that allows the various spokes in the #ag industry to hook together to create a powerful voice. It is also a place we can come together to share knowledge, educate, and learn from one another. The biggest impact has been on the interaction with the public at large. We need to get this going. Education is a MUST! I am ever thankful for the weekly shindig known as #agchat! 

    If you need more information on why you should vote Michele (@mpaynknoper) Twitter User of the Year, check out these places. You will come to quickly notice that there are other communities in conjunction with the #ag community that are all in agreement.

    Janice's Blog (@JPLovesCOTTON) -
    Eliz Greene's Blog (@elizgreene) -
    Ray Prock's Blog (@RayLinDairy) - 

    We are now to the point in the posting where you have been inspired and feel so compelled to drop everything and vote. Here is the direct link to vote. Sign in with your Twitter or Facebook account and vote every day.

    Harvesting Ideas from "Opposing" Views

    As I reflect back on the recent interactions with the #Profood folks, I believe there are just some things that need much more than 140 characters to explain. In conjunction, there are also issues that seem irreconcilable, regardless of the amount of characters, both on paper and "live".

    Let's take the simple approach and take each issue bullet by bullet. First two bullets:

    • The #agchat community has no interest in changing and are afraid of sustainability - Anyone who has been involved in the agricultural community knows full well how much farming has changed over the last century  to adapt to an ever changing environment. We now use less resources, less chemicals, and better tillage practices, all the while maintaining a safe, healthy, abundant food supply. We are also looking for better methodologies by engaging in the latest in technology, scientific modeling, and University Extension offices. The #ag community knows full well what we are up against and will "change", as we have always done. Production agriculture IS NOT static, and every single argument against current practices of good #farmers makes this assumption by the very nature of the position. Farmers want sustainability, probably a helluva lot more than the #profood peeps do. If you think the farmers I deal with on Twitter are not sustainable, I say you haul your but out there to learn, or better yet make your ENTIRE living off the land. Then come back and tell me if sustainability isn't at the forefront of all good farmers.  
    • The pushback we (#Profood) are seeing is because "Big Ag" is running scared. - Actually, the push back you get from me has zero to do with running scared. It has to do with the fact that #profood peeps tend to view our interaction as a "war" that needs to be won. Promoting production agriculture and the role it is surely going to play moving forward isn't a war or contest to see who can trump the other in a battle of wits, and it definitely isn't about a smack-down or trendig comparisons. It should be about everyone working together and listening, sharing ideas, and above all, learning. You obviously have many issues with the current food system, and I do not disagree that there are many to go after, but including the farmer in that mix and then calling them Big-Ag because it is easy and people "understand it" doesn't help and creates divides. I am not Big-Ag and never have been.
    • There is no more to learn from #agchat - Sad, truly sad. Educating yourself is very important; however, education alone is not enough. I can say that because I witnessed it first hand. A company asked for voluntary retirement with a generous package. It so happens that many people took the offer. What the company didn't realize is that a huge void was created, an experience void. Long story short, this experience void hampered innovation and new product development. I say we learn from that mistake. If you think you have nothing more to learn from the very people who have been farming for 3-6 generations, I say think again. 
    Do we not all want the same outcome? Safe, sustainable, healthy food, more kitchen time, and deep interest in our food? That is what I want. It is one of the reasons I support my neighbor, a local grower. He uses VRT, Lightbar, conservation tillage (Strip-Till), and is always researching better methodologies to grow our food. In my view, that is on the #sustainable path. 

    Before proposing a situation to discuss, I close with a question for the #profood tweeps out there: How irritating is it when you get lumped in with the #AR crazies? How about people stating that all you want to do is convert us all to Vegan? I have seen both of these happen. I know full well that you are NOT doing any of the sort, but just imagine how the conversation would go, downhill fast. Go back on look through the conversations and blog posts. What I see is that the #ag community fully supports all types of good farming practices. We will need a diversified mix to deal with the issues we face.

    I (not to be taken literally) produce commodity crops (corn/beans/wheat), livestock, pork, and legumes as a cover crop in between crop rotations. I use the latest and greatest in guidance from AutoFarm. This means that I plant with sub-inch accuracy & follow the same paths thereby reducing compaction. I also use Variable-Rate Technologies in conjunction with my guidance to ensure I only use what inputs where I need them, thereby reducing my environmental impact. I have also migrated over to conservation tillage to continue to increase the organic matter in my soil. I soil test on a 3 year rotation to ensure I am not depleting the soil nutrients. I capture my manure and use it as much as possible to decrease my synthetic fertilizer use. In conjunction with that, my neighbor also uses my manure to be sure we use what is produced. Removing the $180 oil price from the equation, because equipment will change, what is missing in the sustainability of my farming operation?

    I look forward to discussing the above situation with an open mind.

    So what is "Big Ag" Anyway?

    You are watching a professional basketball game. As usual the game is fast paced, exciting, and, for the most part enjoyable. The game slows down a bit for a free throw due to an offensive foul. The "rock" is thrown up and...brick!.

    This is what I believe happens with the term Big Ag. The term is thrown out there like a basketball (rock) heading to the rim only to brick. This could be semantics, but here is the thing; semantics matter, ALLOT. Semantics defined, is the branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words. What is meant means more than what is said. Take one of my favorite expressions from my southern roots, "Bless your heart". Unless you are culturally aware, you may think this statement is meant as a positive; however, in the south this is not so positive. We southeners use this statement as a way to not offend people when we do not have anything nice to say. So what is meant means much more that what is said.

    So isn't it about time my #Profood counterparts do one of two things: Define Big Ag or just stop using the term altogether. I prefer the latter. It just detracts from a conversation because inevitably the question will be asked: What is Big Ag? The conversation will then focus on this instead of debating real issues, like safe, healthy food, stable food supplies, food insecurity, and future direction of agriculture, GM foods, and many others.     

    I took part in a #Twitter conversation last night, well according to some I didn't take part and just jumped into the middle of it. I believe that twitter conversations are meant to be broad and include our entire network. If you don't like having people take part in a discussion, use the DM functionality or migrate over to email; otherwise, please expect me to take part in discussions that pertain to any and all aspects of the world wide food supply chain. It is my passion so I cannot help myself. 

    So, why bring this conversation up and how does it pertain to defining Big Ag?

    Here is why:

    As you may already be aware, Michael Pollen was invited by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to speak about sustainable agriculture. It is also a well known fact that many in agriculture have a beef with Pollen and his stated positions. I am not going to get into the differences, but suffice it say, there are more than a few. Given this fact, one of the donors, who happens to be a rancher, Harris Ranch did not like a one-sided lecture and wanted a panel discussion instead that included meat expert(s), industry, and Pollen. Harris informed the school that they would not be donating funds if there was not a fair and balanced discussion. 

    As you can imagine, this did not go over well with my #profood counterparts. Many were livid. The disdain for Harris Ranch's action was very apparent. Obviously, this was another Big Ag move to block their voice to be sure the truth was squashed once again. Big Ag was running scared and using their massive power to keep down the little guy again. It figures, right? This is always what Big Ag does; we keep the truth hidden so we can keep pillaging the land, produce un-healthy food, and squandering Mother Earth. 

    This is the knee-jerk reaction I have seen many times. Now Harris was getting attacked by people who knew ZERO about the operation, people, and business. In a matter of a few tweets, Harris Ranch was now Big Ag.

    As the day progressed yesterday, the usual banter went back and forth. I just watched from the sideline as yesterday was a bit busy. I finally had spare time in the evening and noticed a good discussion about the previous Pollen/Harris event. My first question: Is Harris Ranch Big-Ag? If so, why? And please define what Big-Ag means. I did not receive an answer, mostly due to the fact, I was told, that my intentions are too hard to read. Fair enough. Let this serve as my intentions. I really want to know what Big Ag is. Seriously....what is it?

    So, instead of discussing the merits of why a panel may or may not have been better for an educational venue in terms of food, we spent wasted time trying to define Big Ag, and neither of the parties was going to capitulate. Dead End. 

    Let's just do away with this term. As @JeffFowle said in a twitter update "Big" is NOT "Bad". To which my response is, EXACTLY. What you do, what values, morals, and ethics you live by defines whether or not you are "Bad", both personally and professionally. 

    So there is no mistake and it is crystal clear:

    There are folks in our industry that do not abide by the rules, but these are the few. The problem is that the few is the focus of the discussion. News in our country revolves around sensationalism, and it is really hard to take the good, hard work 98% of the farmers do each and every day and make it newsworthy. This translates to a position that the agricultural industry cannot be trusted and produces un-healthy food. Then we wonder why the consumer acts a certain way?

    So, the question remains: What is Big Ag?

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    Agriculture passionado! I lead GeoVantage's Sales, Marketing, and Business Development activities. If you haven't explored the benefit of remote sensing for production agriculture, now is the time! Not one to rest, I am also a part of the Memes Associates team where we focus on assisting large companies in the agriculture space to "re-discover their inner entrepreneur" through the introduction of market disrupting technology(s) and services.  

    Have questions about agriculture and technology in agriculture? Ask away! 

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