#onthefarm with Chris Raines

January 29, 2010

To change things up, I asked Celeste Laurent, a student at Western Kentucky and a former #onthefarm guest, to guest host this week’s chat. I was unable to follow along, but it looks like Celeste did a great job and had an excellent and insightful conversation with Chris. I was very happy to see so many of our aggie colleagues promote and follow the chat. I think Celeste brought in more chat followers this week than I have in the past two months!

Enjoy this week’s chat below. I’ll be back next week as your regular host. I like the guest moderator approach every couple of weeks, to keep things fresh.

Have a great weekend,


celestelaurent: We’re ready to get started with #onthefarm ! I’m guest hosting today for ur usual host @n_web and joined by guest @iTweetMeat

iTweetMeat: Hey hey!

celestelaurent: For those who don’t know him, @iTweetMeat is Chris Raines, meat scientist and Asst. Professor at Penn State

celestelaurent: Why don’t you start by telling us a little about yourself @iTweetMeat

iTweetMeat: So is this like a blind date or something? Anyway. I am a professor at Penn State Univ, and I work with farmers & meat plants

iTweetMeat: So lotsa fun stuff like marketing, meat quality, HACCP training, regulatory compliance (USDA FSIS), and classroom stuff

iTweetMeat: I grew up in the Northeastern US and kindasorta came “home” after way too too many years in college in OK and KS

iTweetMeat: Um, my favorite meat is lamb chops and I am also a Leo. What else would you like to know abt me?

celestelaurent: Sounds like work keeps you pretty busy! That leads into our first question: Q1 Why did you get involved with social media?

iTweetMeat: Yes, I manage to keep very busy!

iTweetMeat: Q1 I started exploring social media when I kept hearing about it during the Iranian elections. Thought I could use it to comm, 2

iTweetMeat: Q1 Traveling around, doing talks and traditional Extension “stuff” = $$$. Reg meetings are now webinars, so why not reg work?

iTweetMeat: Q1 And everyone seems to have a ? or 2 (and mny have heated opinions, too) abt the meat we eat; hence, here I am.

celestelaurent: You mentioned the $ issue in extension work..Q2 How has PA State embraced social media? Were u encouraged to tweet, facebook,etc?

iTweetMeat: Q2 Yes, $ is an issue, just as it is anywhere. How can I make an “impact” w/o having to travel? SM is a way.

iTweetMeat: Yet assessing the level of impact is the next big challenge — enter … SurveyMonkey!

iTweetMeat: As for other PSU’rs, I have few colleagues using SM, and I suspect there is a comfort level associated w/ it

iTweetMeat: i.e., I’m about the youngest faculty member on campus (or maybe am) and social media is something I’m OK with

iTweetMeat: Added to that challenge is that I am at a “transition point” in communications. I’ve got stakeholders who like SM, E-mail, blogs

iTweetMeat: …and others who only want “snail mail” and face-to-face workshops (the latter, of course, can’t be fully replaced IMO)

iTweetMeat: Oh, and no I was no rly encouraged to Tweet or FB or anything. My dept head blogs, so I started w/ that, too. & now I do this.

celestelaurent: We’ll move on to Q3: You mentioned earlier that everyone has a question or 2 on meat. Do u get more q’s from ag ppl or consumers

iTweetMeat: Q3 — Consumers or farmers? I think it’s about a 50% farmer, 25% chef/meat purveyor/similar, and 25% consumer.

iTweetMeat: How animals are raised, food safety, meat quality — general “themes of the questions” I get

celestelaurent: We’ll run with @NEFarmBureau ‘s question as Q4: Do you think today’s consumers know how to prepare meat?

iTweetMeat: It sure is a great food value, and no, I don’t think many are up to speed on cooking roasts

iTweetMeat: But that brings up an interesting point in the observations I’ve made of “ag” and “them”

iTweetMeat: Some of today’s consumers are super-aware, and others are abysmally unaware.

iTweetMeat: And there are scads of “experts” on food circulating who may be thought of as “today’s consumer”

iTweetMeat: Is my rambling making sense? I think many have a little “gourmet” in them. Yet, fewer have practical foodsafe know how IMO

iTweetMeat: I’m just thrilled there is so much interest in food! Shows ppl really value it.

celestelaurent: Makes sense to me lol For Q5: Why don’t you share some food safety misconceptions you’ve encountered via SM

iTweetMeat: Q5 – I’m not sure where to start. The grassfed issue is of course a biggie.

iTweetMeat: The concept that, in a recall, the total lbs. of recalled meat is *not* all contaminated. Just takes 1 bug per lot.

iTweetMeat: IMO, scariest info I’ve seen r from people touting rare grassfed ground beef, the accolades of raw milk, all w/o addressing risk

iTweetMeat: So what else we got? Must catch a plane for #NCBA10 in a little bit!

celestelaurent: We’ll move on to our next moderated question: Q6 Tell us about #meatcamp What is it, how did it start, etc…

iTweetMeat: Q6 Ah, #meatcamp. I wanted to do a meat chat, and so did my new friend @CarrieOliver. We put our heads together and there we go.

iTweetMeat: #meatcamp We can contribute very different ideas and info abt meat. So great to see so much interest in meat as well.

iTweetMeat: Now we have #meatcamp Thurs 8pET; topics vary, often at the request of “followers.” Thus far topics have been very basic.

iTweetMeat: The simpler the broader-reaching. It gets people talking about beef, pork. About how sausage is made. To appreciate meat as well.

celestelaurent: Is most of #meatcamp -ers ag or consumer? We’ll tie in q from @nel1jack :How do u tell who is farmer/producer & who is consumer?

carrieoliver: @iTweetMeat lol how is teaching ppl beef is like wine, diff’t breeds, diets, region etc = diff’t flavor/textures basic? #meatcamp

iTweetMeat: Yes, the tricky question. I can only tell by bios. Wht I am noticing is how people define “ag” difftly

iTweetMeat: I think of “ag” as a food/fiber producer. Others address “ag” as a certain scale/scop of production. It’s tough

celestelaurent: Using last 10 min to squeeze in our last 2 audience q’s: from @JMJLaurent Should we teach SM as part of our 4-H/FFA projects?

iTweetMeat: I think so … just like we teach public speaking now. It’s an important comm tool that won’t go away soon!

iTweetMeat: It’s new enough that quite possibly SM strategies/audiences could be a project in itself?

celestelaurent: Our final audience question is from @NEFarmBureau “What cut of meat does @itweetmeat‘s family enjoy most often?”

iTweetMeat: LOL. Most often? Well right now it’s #pork b/c that’s what I’ve got in the freezer. I’m low on beef and lamb.

iTweetMeat: I like having the “whole animal” in the freezer — that way there’s always something different from yesterday to cook ;)

celestelaurent: I think my mom has the same approach lol That does it for the moderated q’s. Anything you’d like to say in closing @iTweetMeat ?

iTweetMeat: Well thanks for asking me to do this! I have to run a few errands, then off to San Antonio I go! #NCBA10

iTweetMeat: Really the flurries this morning make Hill Country seem really nice!

celestelaurent: I want to thank @iTweetMeat for joining me on short notice & fitting this in before heading to #NCBA10 He’s a great #agvocate !

iTweetMeat: Thanks all! Bye!

celestelaurent: Next week you’ll have usual host @n_web back for more ag convo. Both he and I will post transcript from today’s chat on our blogs

celestelaurent: Safe travels @iTweetMeat ! Don’t have too much fun at #NCBA10 lol 

celestelaurent: I also want to thank all the audience members who were involved today. Lots of great q’s/discussion made for great convo!

n_web: Big thanks to @celestelaurent and @iTweetMeat for participating in #onthefarm today. Looked like a great chat! I’ll be back next week.


#onthefarm with Shaun Haney

January 27, 2010

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: Here is the link to one of the AMI cool stories http://bit.ly/7VDvGM

n_web: Q8 from @ruthseeley: “what do you think of the local proposal to start growing poppies in this area (Alberta).”

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.

shaunhaney: Thanks for the opportunity to participate with #onthefarm I had a great time. Please check out http://www.realagriculture.com and http://www.haneyfarms.com