Fun with the Foundation for Ag

The AFBF Foundation for Ag’s Night Out was a rousing success. With 1,000 tickets sold and Farm Bureau members from across the country boarding the “Inspiration Hornblower,” you can guarantee a great time! A beautiful ship full of friends and fellow farmers who all care about ag literacy, it doesn’t get any better than this!

We had a great meal, amazing fellowship and great views. A few states (Nebraska, New Hampshire, Washington) even won My American Farm kiosks to enhance their ag literacy efforts while one lucky member won a trip to the Super Bowl! Thanks to our partners DuPont Pioneer and Chevy for providing these prizes.

The highlight of the night was certainly the members’ willingness to give and share their monetary blessings to help the Foundation for Ag continue to have an impact on ag Literacy! Almost $3,000 was given by our Farm Bureau family – thanks to each of you who donated!

If you haven’t taken time to learn about the AFBF Foundation for Ag, please visit ag While you’re there check out the educational materials and select some resources to share with your favorite kids and teachers.


Hilary Maricle is a member of AFBF’s national Promotion & Education Committee and graduate of the Partners in Agricultural Leadership program. She hails from Nebraska, where she is a county commissioner and raises beef cattle, hogs, sheep, corn and soybeans with her family. Her Twitter name is @mariclefarm and she’s also on Facebook (Hilary Esch Maricle).


New Kid on the Block

Promotion and education. Two words that have begun to take on a whole new meaning to me the last few years, as my involvement in Farm Bureau as evolved. But what do those words mean for Farm Bureau?

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s new Promotion & Education Committee is an exciting opportunity to unite efforts being made across the country in our counties, our states…and sharing ideas, efforts and creativity in ways that make sharing the story of agriculture easier. Because we all know that each and every one of us needs to be sharing the story of agriculture…and not just any story, but our story.

P&E Committee

AFBF’s Promotion & Education Committee (L to R): Teribeth Spargo, Missouri; Phyllis Contour, New York; Renee McCauley, Michigan; Chair Chris Hoffman, Pennsylvania; Vice Chair Val Wagner, North Dakota; Hilary Maricle, Nebraska; and Melinda Groth, Minnesota.

The time has come for promotion and education efforts to no longer be riding shotgun with everything else that’s happening – it must be in the driver’s seat.

We read today’s headlines and we get upset over the stories that are being shared about agriculture, yet we’re not out there be loud enough with our own stories – sharing our own successes, telling our own happy endings. Those times have begun to change, but it’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work…and teamwork as well.

Promotion and education is not just about school programs and handing teachers information, although that’s important, too. It’s about reaching mothers at the grocery store, editors at the newspaper, readers online, friends in social media – the opportunities are endless!

P & E iconOur committee is made up of a group of diverse, driven and dedicated individuals that are determined to ensure that we create innovative ways for states to share ideas and resources, as well as set a solid path for the future of this committee.

Led by Chris Hoffman, committee chair from Pennsylvania, we’re working towards preparing for next month’s AFBF FUSION Conference in Nashville. Other committee members include Phyllis Couture, New York; Melinda Groth, Minnesota; Hilary Maricle, Nebraska; Renee McCauley, Michigan; Teribeth Spargo, Missouri; and me, Val Wagner, North Dakota.

Will it be hard work? Of course. Worth it? Every second.

wagfarms is Val Wagner, a North Dakota farmer and rancher. The Wag’n Tales blog features stories from this mom of four who loves farm life and invites readers to come along for the ride. Follow Val on Twitter (@wagfarms) and find her on Facebook. She is vice chair of AFBF’s national Promotion & Education Committee.


An Amazing Day at #AFBF15

By Terry Gilbert

Today has been an amazing day at #15! The day started with a great Flapjack Breakfast with the announcement of the Book of the Year and Jack Hanna and his amazing animals. This was a fun event to help raise money for continuing the efforts of the AFB Foundation.

Flapjack alligatorAt the Leadership Luncheon we were entertained and inspired by Heather Dineen, the 2014 “America’s Farmers” Farm Mom of the Year! A very sweet lady with a great message. Heather was followed by our keynote speaker Leighton Cooley, a Georgia farmer and one of the stars of the documentary film Farmland. His message answered the question “Can I Alone Make a Difference?” Very inspiring and yes, each of us as an individual can make a difference! We just have to do our part!

Flapjack bookVespers at the end of the day led by Amy Gerak and her mom Sherry Saylor was beautiful and inspiring! The perfect end to and amazing day at #AFBF15!




Terry Gilbert is chair of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee. She and her husband are farmers in Kentucky, where they raise beef cattle and corn. Find her on Twitter (@trg1173) and Facebook (Terry Gilbert).


Pizza: The Universal Language

By Hilary Maricle

AFBF’s new Promotion and Education Committee has hit the ground running! You may have seen us at the IDEAg Trade Show at the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture booth. Did you make a pizza bracelet or take the quiz on chickens? Which kid doesn’t like pizza and thinking about what toppings they’ll put on it. A simple pizza bracelet can help someone understand that to get tomatoes you need farmers.

Committee members worked hard on Friday to start to lay out a plan for the next year and part of that plan is to visit with members from across the country to find out what they’re doing. So, if you’re at convention and we caught up with you at the IDEAg Trade Show on Saturday or Sunday that’s great, but if we haven’t caught up with you yet, please stop us in the hall to say hi.

Hilary 1A few key elements of our plan for the year include communicating to help everyone work together and understand that Farm Bureaus across the country are all stepping up their consumer education focus. Collaboration is key so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and can help everyone to share ideas for agriculture promotion and education. Lastly, we are going to do our best to provide some inspiration to help recognize and develop amazing projects in ag promotion and education.



Hilary 2We all know that pizza is a universal language that can help us connect to consumers.We’re excited to think about how we will be able to have even more influence on consumers when we start to communicate and collaborate. It doesn’t matter what Farm Bureaus call their promotion and education activities, we want to know about them!


Hilary Maricle is a member of AFBF’s national Promotion & Education Committee and graduate of the Partners in Agricultural Leadership program. She hails from Nebraska, where she is a county commissioner and raises beef cattle, hogs, sheep, corn and soybeans with her family. Her Twitter name is @mariclefarm and she’s also on Facebook (Hilary Esch Maricle).


A New Focus

I made a quick switch in plans on Sunday. And sometimes making a change in your schedule can make all the difference in the world.

The change? I went to lunch. Not just any lunch, but the Women’s Leadership luncheon. And the difference that was made in my life was inspired by one of the greatest women that I have had the pleasure to meet, Debbie Lyons-Blythe.

She spoke at the luncheon, talking about her role as America’s Farm Mom for 2012, and other projects and programs, but the message that resonated most came from her talking about her advocacy efforts in agriculture. And it spoke to me directly.

As Debbie so bluntly put it, “It’s no longer just about telling our story, we need to start answering questions.”

I need I hear that and read that daily. I need to start answering more questions. Don’t get me wrong, I will still need to write my familiar family stories, including my own voice, but I cannot be afraid to answer the questions that are asked.

The new year has just begun, and I believe that I may have finally found a resolution worth keeping: I will answer more questions.

And as a mother of four boys, I’m pretty sure I have experience in that.

wagfarms is Val Wagner, a North Dakota farmer and rancher. The Wag’n Tales blog features stories from this mom of four who loves farm life and invites readers to come along for the ride. Follow Val on Twitter (@wagfarms) and find her on Facebook. She is a member of the North Dakota Farm Bureau’s Promotion & Education Committee.

Social Media Is Powerful

I went to two breakout sessions at the AFBF Conference on Sunday. Both talked about the importance of engaging with consumers. The overarching message was that consumers want to know more, but they don’t know where to turn to get the information.

One of the sessions talked about using “traditional” media like radio, newspapers, and television as a way to tell our story. Another talked about books and documentaries. All of these media outlets have a place. But the importance of social media and blogging was greatly downplayed in both sessions..

The speakers focused on one group of “mommy bloggers” – those who may not have an agriculture connection, but are very passionate about the food choices they make for their families. This group of bloggers can be very vocal and very influential. Sometimes, their opinions are contrary to what those of us in the trenches of agriculture believe.

And that’s OK.

That’s what blogging is for – it’s a venue for someone to share their thoughts, opinions, and passions. All bloggers are looking for a community of like-minded people to talk to. Many of us want to reach outside our immediate circle of friends and try to talk to people with opinions that are different from ours.

What both speakers missed out on, though, is that there is a large community of ag bloggers.

There are plenty of “mommy bloggers” who are also “food bloggers,” and even better, “farm bloggers.” These women (and men) are also very influential! Check out The Real Farmwives of America And Friends. Like Rockin’ Rural Women on Facebook. Check out an #agchat on Twitter one Tuesday night. Just do a Google search for “farm blog” and start reading! It won’t take you long to find and get to know some of these amazing farm bloggers.

Traditional media outlets are very important in telling our farm story. But who can tell your story better than you? Social media and blogging can be a very powerful way to tell your story and to share your farm with the questioning public. Using these media outlets is the only way you can be sure that your farm is portrayed in your voice, with accuracy and integrity, the way you want it to be seen.

Not sure where to start? Log into Facebook and share some pictures of your daily farm chores. You’ll be surprised at some of the comments and questions you’ll get from just showing what you do every day! If you want more resources, check out Ohio Farm Bureau’s Social Media Guide. Touch base with your state’s Farm Bureau office, or the American Farm Bureau to see what other help they can offer. Or just ask the teenager in your life to show you the ropes!

Social media is a huge platform where we can tell our ag story. Consumers are starting to learn more about where their food comes from. With every bit of knowledge they gain, they are hungry for even more. Why not give them what they are looking for, and spread a positive image of agriculture at the same time?

alarmclockwars is Marybeth Feutz, DVM, of Indiana. She and her husband, John, have a beef cattle farm and work together in their family’s veterinary practice. She is a member of the Indiana Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership Committee. Check out her blogs: Alarm Clock Wars ( and AgriCultured — Where People Who Eat Get Their Food Questions Answered ( Find her on Twitter (@AlarmClockWars).