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).


Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge Finalists Battle on Stage to Win Big

After being selected out of 200 applicants, four companies went to battle  for the chance to be named Entrepreneur of the Year and win big to grow their budding business ventures.

In a “Shark Tank” style set up, each contestant gave a short pitch to four judges and answered six minutes of questions in an attempt to convince them that their company will bring the greatest improvement to rural America. If that wasn’t pressure enough, the pitches were in front of a live audience on the trade show stage, as well as streamed online for viewers across the nation.

The four finalists are as follows (in order of presentation):

Golden Bridges: Team Leader — Suzanne Ellerbrock, Missouriphoto 1

As certified Senior Move Managers, Golden Bridges offers a variety of services to help seniors relocate or “age in place” smoothly. The group is more than just a moving company for rural America, rather they help families find peace of mind from developing a moving plan to setting up the new home to helping clients earn a profit on unwanted items. Golden Bridges has helped clients with thousands of moves.

Pasturebird, LLC: Team leader — Paul Grieve, Californiaphoto 2

With the goal to end factory farming throughout the global food market, Paul Grieve and his Pasturebird team have developed a large-scale, rotational grazing system for chickens. Pasturebird aims to reduce the cost of feeding in order to offer pasture-raised poultry for the same price as conventionally raised birds. In the first three years, the company has made $600,000 revenue and hopes to soon patent their technology.

Pulaski Grow: Team Leader Lee Spiegel, Virginiaphoto 3

Pulaski Grow offers both social and environmental benefits. With the use of an aquaponics business, Pulaski Grow will expand on an already existing youth training program to offer youth business experience with practice in marketing, customer relations, and product development. Additionally participants learn how to write a cover letter, build a resume and fill out an application, better preparing them for life after high school. Further opportunities are offered to youth who successfully complete the training program such as internships with other local business and potential jobs with Pulaski Grow. The company expects a revenue of $61,000 in the first year.

Scout Pro: Team Leader Michael Koenig, Iowaphoto 4

Scout Pro provides informational and cutting edge apps for crop scouters helping to save time while making business more profitable. With the use of Scout Pro, industry professionals will be able to access crop history online, while physically in the field assessing new crops. The varying applications assist in many ways including the identification of weeds, insects, diseases and disorders associated with corn, wheat and soy products. The company projects growing sales, up to $1 million in sales  2019.

The results will be announced during the convention’s final session on Monday, Jan. 12, following keynote speaker Jay Leno. The Entrepreneur of the Year will receive $15,000 while the People’s Choice Award winner will receive $10,000 (a contestant can win both). Voting for the People’s Choice Award is open until 12 p.m. Pacific on Jan. 12, and is accessible via the Farm Bureau Annual Convention App under “surveys.”

KennaLewis is a student at California Polytechnic Institute. She was a summer communications intern at the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2014.


Cultivation Center Schedule, Speakers Announced for #AFBF15

The Cultivation Center on the IDEAg Trade Show floor at the AFBF Annual Convention will serve as the educational centerpiece of the trade show. The theater seating area provides the perfect opportunity for exhibitors, sponsors, educators and ag enthusiasts to each present 15-minute sessions. The sessions will highlight exhibitors’ newest and best ideas and will provide education on technological developments in the agriculture industry.

11:45 a.m. Power of the Pillars
Presented by American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture,
1:00 p.m. Waypoint Global Strategies,
1:30 p.m. Total Administrative Services Corp.,
2:00 p.m. Jack Hanna
Sponsored by Nationwide
2:30 p.m. America’s Heartland,
3:15 p.m. Valley Irrigation,
4:00 p.m. Show Closes
10:30 a.m. Show Opens
11:00 a.m. REI Challenge,
1:00 p.m. Valley Irrigation,
1:30 p.m. My American Farm,
Presented by American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture
2:30 p.m. Waypoint Global Strategies,
3:15 p.m. Total Administrative Services Corp.,


Download the 2015 AFBF Annual Convention Mobile App

Download the 2015 AFBF Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show mobile app to view a schedule of events, speaker information, venue information and maps, sponsor and exhibitor listings, an interactive trade show floor plan and more.

Download the app at and allow push notifications to receive important announcements and onsite changes.

#AFBF15 is the official hashtag of the meeting for Twitter and Instagram.

Top 3 Places to Spot an AgNerd at AFBF Convention

An “agnerd” is someone who loves both technology and agriculture. The ranks of agnerds have been growing in recent years and at the AFBF annual convention. And I think this year may be the one where agnerds are the most visible. But for those who aren’t familiar with agnerds, you may wonder where to spot these folks. So this is a list of ways to find an agnerd!

  • agnerd ribbonLook for an agnerd ribbon! You have to know that many agnerds are quite proud of their title and will display it proudly! In fact, some people here pay for ribbons they can wear on their name badge declaring their agnerd status! (Purchasing a ribbon helps support some of the AFBF programs.) I noticed earlier that Michigan fruit farmer Jeff VanderWerff is sporting one!
  • See someone wearing Google Glass?
    Google Glass on the Farm
    Definite AgNerd! A lot of people probably haven’t seen Google Glass, but it is a technology from the folks at Google who are looking for ways to integrate technology into our daily lives. You can take photos without lifting up a camera! While the main sharing at an event like #AFBF14 is Chuck Zimmerman’s photos, there is a lot of potential for field scouting, etc. You can learn more on
  • FieldScriptsAgNerds Loved the Trade Show & some of the sessions! The trade show & educational & exhibitor sessions are already wrapping up but there were lots of opportunities for agnerds to learn more about what various companies were doing. Here’s one example:

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work for Monsanto focuses on social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.

Drought Tolerance Discussion Draws Farmer Interest at AFBF13

AFBF Seminar on Drought ToleranceOn Sunday, one of the exhibitor seminars drew a big crowd and kept them in their seats the full hour. What topic could lure people away from picking up swag? Easy. Drought tolerance. The topic is especially poignant following a historic drought in many states during 2012.

Mark Edge, the DroughtGard marketing lead for Monsanto, came to the AFBF meeting to talk with farmers about the company’s approach on drought tolerance and the new products that are becoming available.

Edge said water is the biggest topic facing agriculture and it has been for a long time. He remembers growing up on a Midwestern farm where water was frequently the topic of conversation. It is not just a topic of interest due to the drought of 2012.

Edge said managing water is critical on farms and in cities pointing out that the tiny bit of fresh water we have needs to provide for people, crops, animals, etc. and all of those areas need to be more sustainable  He said farmers have long looked for various ways to conserve water and the continued improvements are sought on-farm.

Monsanto is using a systems approach to addressing water use and drought tolerance. The system includes native traits, biotech traits and agronomics to deliver solutions to farmers. He says the company has introduced new DroughtGard hybrids that have been screened closely for performance of native traits and biotech traits. Molecular tools identify native control of drought tolerance in a more precise way than in the past allowing breeders to screen for drought tolerance while maintaining yield, etc Several years of testing has already been conducted in the western corn belt ie Kansas, Colorado & Nebraska.

Edge’s comments that plant is able to perform with less water, sensors test available water in the soil profile. The testing done includes monitoring of water in the soil profile by using soil capacity probes. With DroughtGard, plant survival rates are greater due to water banking.

Earlier technologies have already made a difference in water use on the farm. Two of the technologies to make a difference already are conservation tillage & corn rootworm control.

The crowd got a laugh out of Edge’s comment that “the DroughtGard name does not mean we have turned corn into a cactus.” He pointed out that plants still need water.

For 2013, the introduction of DroughtGard will be limited to selected states with farmers signing stewardship agreements about the grain produced. These agreements require the corn produced be consumed in the US, where the product is fully approved.

Janice AKA JPLovesCotton is Janice Person, a city girl who loves cotton and biotechnology. Her work for Monsanto includes blogging and social media outreach. A colorful adventure is her personal blog. Follow her on Twitter (@JPLovesCotton) and find her on Facebook.