County Farm Bureau-sponsored Women in Ag Conference tackles marketing issues

Michelle Miller, known to many as Farm Babe, discussed ways farmers can share their stories.

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Michelle Miller, aka the Farm Babe, shares some agricultural facts with 2018 Women in Agriculture Conference attendees in Rock Island. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

By Kate Huffman

The 2018 Women in Agriculture Conference in Rock Island brought together women from different agricultural backgrounds to network, learn and inspire. A growing population segment, women in agriculture, as a group, are ready to tackle many of the challenges our industry faces.

We started by tackling fear marketing. Michelle Miller, known to many as Farm Babe, didn’t plan a life in agriculture. At one time in her big city life, she believed what the mainstream media and marketing said about modern agriculture. When an Iowa farm boy came waltzing into her life, she was able to make an agriculture connection. Today, as Farm Babe, she researches and debunks myths about modern agriculture and shares facts in a fun way.

During a breakout session, Miller discussed ways we can tell our stories and share agriculture facts, starting on social media. Getting news from social media is becoming more common. By telling our personal stories, consumers can see we are just like them, buying the same items in stores.

Miller recommended using hashtags to help spread your story, including #Plant18, #FactsNotFear and #WhyIThankAg. 

Paul Stoddard, agribusiness lecturer at the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, discussed principles for long-term success in personal development. A person must first become successful in developing him or herself before he or she can run a successful business, Stoddard said. His list of “51 things” he wished he knew at 21, included financial planning, learning how to find the right advisers and planning for your business's future.

Kim Bremmer, owner of Ag Inspirations, concluded the conference with thoughts on fear marketing. Bremmer helps women share their stories and ensures people understand that you cannot always trust labels on food. She informs people in entertaining, nonconfrontational ways, including Post-it notes next to the non-GMO labeled orange juice or striking up conversations in the grocery store.

Bremmer reminded attendees that words are tools that shape perception, so a farmer needs to think like a consumer. For example, try calling it a cow Fit Bit rather than activity monitors or precision plant breeding instead of GMOs.

Attendees left with new connections and a renewed sense of excitement and inspiration. Many began a fresh countdown to next year and were thinking of who we should come with! Visit the Women in Agriculture Conference Facebook page or website for news about the 2019 conference.

The conference was sponsored by the Bureau, Carroll, Fulton, Henry, Knox, Lee, Mercer, McDonough, Rock Island, Stark, Stephenson, Warren-Henderson, and Whiteside county Farm Bureaus in Illinois as well as Illinois Farm Bureau, Country Financial, River Valley Cooperative, University of Illinois Extension and Iowa State University Extension. 

Kate Huffman, a sixth-generation farmer who farms with her father near Kewanee, serves as vice chairman of the Henry County Young Leaders Committee. She is also a commercial and ag lender at Heartland Bank & Trust in Princeton. 

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