Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Tiffany Nichols knows what she wants in life
The famous question, “What does a woman want?” was asked and left unanswered by Sigmund Freud, and it’s one I can’t pretend to solve either.
But the question matters more than ever to ag journalists, agri-marketers and farmer advisers—all of us who need to communicate with female farmers.
One of the big surprises in the 2007 Census of Agriculture was the growth in the number of farm women. Women classified as "principal operators" increased by almost one third since the ’02 census. There were 306,209 female principal operators counted in 2007, up from 237,819 in 2002. And we know that beyond these primary operators, farm women have significant roles in the management of most of the nation’s farms and ranches.
When it comes to what they want in ag information, farm women appear to be all business, according to a recent Successful Farming magazine survey.
In the survey, farm women ranked 66 topics in the order of their interest. The five most popular topics were:
* Farm tax strategies and estate planning.
* Government farm programs and policy
* Home-based business for farm families
* Farm business management
* Making farms safer for kids/adults.
At face value, this list seems to suggest that women are hungry for information that will make their farms more secure, safe, and prosperous.
A female colleague of mine, a young woman who grew up on a farm, tells me she suspects that these women might be telling us what they think they ought to be reading, that is, that it’s their role to focus on financial security and safety. She points out that the women surveyed say their favorite Successful Farming feature is All Around the Farm, a collection of practical tips from farmers--the same page that is top-rated by all readers.
In the social media space, such as Agriculture Online’s Women in Agriculture forum, you get a little different picture. If you look at the list of discussion group topics there, you’ll see that business issues aren’t entirely ignored. But, recent hot topics include household management tips, food recipes, and personal and family issues.
Looking at the new social network for young and beginning farmers, Farmers for the Future, young women have staked out a lot digital turf on the site, and many of their interests parallel those of the men.
Today, in the network, for example, I found female farmers and ranchers commenting on topics like calving ease, finding land, and shopping for machinery online. Not much on things like recipes and housekeeping.
One young farm woman, Tiffany Nichols, writes in her profile page:
“I am in the process of taking over parts of the farm from my father. My younger brother and I plan to fully take over and grow the operation.”
What do farm women want? For Tiffany, it's the same thing her brother wants: to farm.
Posted by John Walter at 12:58 PM
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Dave Lehman, CME Group research and new product director, talks with farmers at CBOT
A group of about 30 farmers held a get-together in Chicago this week, the third such gathering of Agriculture Online Marketing Talk discussion group members. The farmers called their first social media meet-up two years ago in Des Moines, and held another one there last fall. This was the first trip to Chicago, and featured a visit to the Chicago Board of Trade.
Mike McGinnis, Ag Online’s Chicago bureau chief, organized a floor tour, speakers, and a round table discussion at the commodity exchange.
Most of the farmers had never been to the CBOT, and had been eagerly looking forward to the floor tour in particular. Some brought their spouses, and made the trip a mini-vacation.
Despite the monumental presence of the famous trading floor--the largest financial room in the world--some 80 or 90 percent of futures trading is done electronically these days. You can trade at home, at your office, or even while on vacation. A big question then is whether there will continue to be a bricks-and-mortar exchange where trading is conducted with the traditional open outcry method. The short answer is “yes.” For now.
Some of the farmers commented that the floor wasn’t as noisy as they expected. While a fair number of traders were using small computers in the pits, many were still scratching numbers on cards with a pencil. Parts of the floor did seem relatively quiet, with people staring into computer screens around the edges, rather than shouting orders across a pit. Action in some areas, like the S&P and soybean options pits, seems loud and intense, however.
If there is sometimes a fair amount distrust among farmers toward commodity traders, it wasn’t much in evidence on Monday.
“I even got a new perspective on traders, they have a job to do, and that is important to us farmers,” said an Indiana farmer.
And, basically we were treated like royalty. The CME Group, which now owns the CBOT, allowed us to tour the floor right after the opening bell. They gave us enough time to poke around in groups of ten and get a feel for how trading is done these days. We were afforded use of their boardroom, cafeteria, and afterwards a trader’s club nearby.
While I don’t think farmers and traders will ever quite live on the same planet, it was interesting to see commonalities between the two professions.
Farmers and traders both work in high-pressure, risk-taking environments. They both appear to love their work. Traders seem to have a deep respect for the farming life, and many of them in fact come from the farm, and maintain farming interests.
Finally, there’s the mutual love of earthy language. One farmer wrote in the discussion group about the floor tour: "I heard one trader yelling to his buddy across the pit 'call home and tell them to liquor up the goat.' I think that is slang for 'I just made a bad trade.' "
Farmers know what it’s like to make a bad trade.
Posted by John Walter at 8:09 AM
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Are these Pennsylvania cows giving off too much gas?
Some days, the world of agricultural news just organizes itself for you.
Today is a good example. The three headlines below all came in the same e-mail document from a service, PR Newswire for Journalists.
What’s curious about the language of press releases sometimes is how certain words and phrases stick in your mind, and I give you these examples:
Revolutionary New Invention Receives World-Wide Attention - Portable Farms
Portable Farms is an invention that will "solve world hunger and poverty" if a lot of people would use it to grow their own tilapia fish and organic vegetables in backyards and basements. The company’s "light-hearted" motto, "Fish don’t fart," makes the point that the technology is designed "to save the world from gas emissions from cattle." It's a big idea, saving the world from hunger with these fish tanks, but I confess that it's the motto that got my attention. Fart is a word you don’t see much in the farm press, even though a fair amount of it takes place in the countryside.
New Farm Odor Management Regulations to Take Effect
Because farm animals do fart, and otherwise behave biologically, the state of Pennsylvania is enacting new regulations for livestock facilities that will "help minimize the potential for conflicts between neighbors." The program involves an "odor site index."
But, here's the part that caught my eye: The new regs "help minimize conflict between those not accustomed to farm odors and the agricultural producers working to meet our increasing world food needs." This index may be all we have these days to keep agriculture part of the busy countryside. No longer are good fences enough to make good neighbors. But I’m also getting a picture in my mind of some fellow in tassel-loafers tip-toeing around a feedlot sniffing the wind, trying to fashion his odor site index, which may smell a lot different than, well, your and my idea of smell.
The EntreTech Forum Presents... Greening Of America - The Conversion of Bio-Agriculture, Bio-Energy, and Bio-Products to Eco-Sustainable Businesses
I’ve read this headline several times, and am still finding it a little hard to digest. It's explained in the release that this "Triple Bio" play of bio-agriculture, bio-energy, and bio-products is leading us to a Bio-Economy, in our "national quest for energy independence and sustainability." Maybe it’s just all the high-fiber hyphenated words that make this language hard to chew. Bio-agriculture, we learn, is "a suite of concepts, practices and technologies which capitalize on biological processes to maximize resource conservation and resource-use." That's a mouthful, too.
And now it would seem we have come full circle....
Posted by John Walter at 12:39 PM