I went north of the border for last week’s #onthefarm, as I visted with Shaun Haney of Haney Farms and www.realagriculture.com. Shaun was one of the first people I started following on Twitter and he brings a unique perspective as a farmer, businessman and ag Web site operator. Honestly, I have no clue where he finds the time to do all of that–and do it well.
We had a very good conversation about Canadian agriculture and his thoughts on social media in agriculture. I could have spent another 2 hours asking questions about Canadian ag. But below is a crash course for ag in Alberta at least.
Hope you enjoy the transcript, and, as always, feel free to pass along feedback to make it better.
n_web: Thanks for joining today, Shaun. You’ve been busy lately, but let’s start off w/ a couple tweets introducing yourself, ok?
shaunhaney: I am Shaun Haney. I live in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. (2 hours south of Calgary). I run a family seed business which produces, conditions and retails certified seed. I also run Realagriculture.com which focuses on issues and insights in agriculture.
n_web: Q2: What seeds does the family produce and sell?
shaunhaney: We produce a full line of spring wheat, winter wheat barley and triticale. We sell all types of cereals, corn and canola. We clean canola seed for different seed companies.
n_web: Q3: What are the major crops in your neck of the woods? The ones you listed as part of your biz, I’d imagine :)
shaunhaney: this area is very much focused on the beef feeding sector. Lots of silage crops and feed grain. Major silage crops are corn, barley and triticale
n_web: Q4: Can you recap the 2009 season in Canada? And what are the trends you’re seeing as we head into 2010?
shaunhaney: We had many of the same challenges in canada weather wise as you did in the US. Harvest was a challenge. There is a lot of concern over volatility in the commodity market. We are very concerned about the depreciation in the US dollar. As an exporting nation the currency level is very important to Canadian farmers in grain and livestock.
n_web: Q5: What nations do the majority of Canadian crops and livestock get exported to?
shaunhaney: The US is our major export market for livestock but the impact of COOL has been very negative in some cases. In terms of crops, lentils and other pulses are shipped to the Middle East and India. There is alot of malt barley that is exported to the US as well. The Canadian and US markets are very tied together. We also import things like corn to Canada for livestock feed. Canada and the US need to work on getting their trading issues settled. (COOL, dairy, etc).
n_web: Q6: Can you explain COOL in 3 tweets? I know I’m asking you to maybe do the impossible with the COOL request . . .
shaunhaney: It is American legislation to make it mandatory to show where products in American grocery stores was produced or processed. Causes issues when we are dealing with such large trading partners like Canada and US. Here is a link to a USDA video explaining COOL from the american perspective http://bit.ly/70hUIk
n_web: Q7: And Canadian producers do not like COOL, I take it? How is this impacting the beef industry there?
shaunhaney: Because the industries are so tied and complimentary. It’s making it difficult to ship fat cattle to US plants in the NW. Processors are trying to not incur costs and deciding to not kill Canadian cattle. Report out this week that some US grocers are starting to see the benefit of marketing Canadian beef in US stores. It’s just adding costs to the system and causing friction between the two, The American Meat Institute is also against COOL.
n_web: Do you have a link to that report? Interesting . . . I wonder if it’s because of media attn on the US industry?
shaunhaney: I think that it is has good potential. I have heard several stories about the project. My neighbor is involved in the project. The fact we have irrigation probably lends itself well to growing poppies for non-opiate production.
n_web: Q9: Let’s talk SM. You run realagriculture.com. Give me some background on that: when, why, focus of content, who, etc.
shaunhaney: I started RealAgriculture.com a year ago. I wanted to focus on providing video and audio to keep agriculturalists informed. We focus on talking to people that have neat stories , educational segments and tradeshow and conference coverage
n_web: Q10: I really enjoyed the recent tradeshow coverage online. How has the response been to that?
shaunhaney: We really try to bring farmers twist to media by covering the issues from the producers viewpoint. By making content for producers it is amazing how the industry also enjoys the content. About 20% of our traffic is from the US. Many similar issues that producers have to deal with.
n_web: Q11: What’s your favorite SM tool?
shaunhaney: I would have to say that my favorite SM tool is twitter. I have made so many friends on twitter it really does amaze me. I use Facebook and linkedin lots as well but in reality twitter has fostered some really strong friendships. I use to use friendfeed all the time but since facebook bought it I haven’t used it much. Kind of repetitive. Twitter is realtime. For example #onthefarm and #agchat.
n_web: Q12: How can US and Canadian growers/producers work closer together on ag issues? Is SM helpful to do so?
shaunhaney: I think SM allows us to ask each other questions to better understand each other. I get tonnes of questions from people in the US about things and I ask questions as well. The SM agriculture community is very strong, supportive and focused on informing people internally and externally. With SM you can interact directly with the source. I can tweet @JeffFowle and ask questions about ranching in US for example. I can tweet @JPlovesCOTTON to find out more about cotton.
n_web: Final Qs: Your (unbiased) picks for the Stanley Cup & the Gold Medal? I’mreeeeally excited for the Olympic hockey (and curling!)
shaunhaney: Normally I would pick the Flames because I am a season ticket holder but I think its the Blackhawks. For the hockey gold medal … Its CANADA all the way for gold.!!!!!!! Yeah I said it.
n_web: It pains me to agree with you on the Hawks . . . Memories of the late 80s/early 90s Blues-Hawks games. Larmer-Roenick-Goulet
n_web: Sorry, one more Q: What didn’t I cover that you’d like to tell everyone?
shaunhaney: I would just like to finish up by saying that I encourage all US producers and industry people to try and learn more about Canada. Our countries have much more in common than you maybe realize. The western US and Western Can. are very similar. Same goes in the east. Our practice ans issues are very common and we need to work together
n_web: This chat flew by! Could keep this going for another hour. But you have content to upload so we’ll call it a day. Thanks! Many thanks to Shaun for joining me in the middle of tradeshow season in Canada. Make sure you check out realagriculture.com.