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Beyond Big Ag Numbers: Telling Our Arizona Agriculture Story July 26, 2013

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau

This article is reprinted with permission. It originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Arizona Agriculture.

In 2009, Arizona Farm Bureau launched a campaign called “Reach a Million.” We wanted to reach a million Arizonans with the Arizona agriculture story. In its first year, we met and exceeded the goal. As we annually build on those numbers, the campaign effort continues to move forward.

 

“The organization learned after the Hogwash campaign just how important staying connected with the public is in today’s fast-paced world,” said Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers. “We’ve been caught off guard too many times with certain groups misleading the public about modern agriculture.”

 

As we’ve advanced in these efforts we’ve come to realize a broader focus too in outreach to the public. Providing the public and our school children the opportunity to learn what farmers and ranchers do is becoming a larger part of the mission of the Arizona Farm Bureau.

 

Communicating our story is no longer simply putting out news releases, visiting with editorial boards and doing radio and TV interviews. Communication now includes social media, which is growing every day in all age groups.

 

The renamed Communication, Education and Marketing Department is now driving much of its communication efforts through “new media” channels that include Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+ to continue telling our Ag story and advance the ongoing Reach a Million Campaign.

 

Total public outreach numbers in this last fiscal year not yet complete (October 2012 to September 2013) are currently 4,064,233. The first year we began our “Reach A Million” Campaign we reached 1,582,865. Every year, we’ve leaned heavily on Arizona Farm Bureau’s Fill Your Plate program to connect with the public, where today the website continues to attract Arizona families about food and health.

“For the first time since launching the Reach a Million campaign we’re going to attempt to drive a good portion of those outreach numbers using our social media tools,” says Julie Murphree, Communication, Education and Marketing Director. “In fact, it could make our numbers drop a bit initially but it’s worth the challenge since we need to really be where our audiences are and you can certainly find them on these various social media channels.”

 

 

In this latest Reach a Million push, we’re currently at 3,064,233 impressions. Compare that to the first year of the campaign: 1,582,865. What’s an impression? An impression is sometimes called a view or a “message” view, referring to the point in which the message, advertisement or story is viewed once by a visitor, or displayed once on a web page. The number of impressions of a particular message is determined by the number of times the particular message is viewed. It’s not really fair to say “person” since “Jane Doe” may have seen the same message or ad on more than one of our communication channels, for example on television and then on our Fill Your Plate blog. But the fact is Arizona Farm Bureau is reaching thousands of Arizona families every month!

 

And, variety is the spice of life! We’re connecting with the public through public relations, Fill Your Plate blogs, advertising, sponsorships, general marketing strategies and agriculture education. Ultimately, everything and anything!

 

We even have a new blog for azfb.org we call “The Voice.”

 

What’s Our Focus?

The Communication, Education and Marketing department’s overarching goals have three main focuses: 1) Improve agriculture markets for farmers and ranchers in Arizona, 2) Dispel misconceptions in agriculture through education, marketing and public relations, and 3) actively engage Arizona families in the exciting story of Arizona agriculture.

 

In the department’s first goal, improving markets, while we know Arizona Farm Bureau does this most effectively through its public policy efforts, the communications department strives to promote Arizona agriculture in a way that makes consumer and other markets commit dollars to our agriculture. One way we’ve been doing this for the growing retail market is through the searchable database of retail farmers and ranchers on Fill Your Plate, including the farmers’ markets our farmers and ranchers serve.

 

A new tool in this arena is our newly launched publication series with the first book, A Farmer’s Guide to Marketing the Direct-Market Farm, going to retail farmers in Arizona and elsewhere. One beef producer at a local farmers’ market said, “Before I read Arizona Farm Bureau’s book, I was not very successful at selling my beef. But after reading A Farmer’s Guide, I now sell out every weekend I’m at the Farmers’ Market.”

 

The book is also available on Amazon.

 

The second goal, dispelling misconceptions in agriculture, is most successfully achieved through our Ag in the Classroom program.  We can now boast “completion” of its fifth year in action. Having already reached more than 63,000 students, teachers and parents this last school year, we’re planning an exciting 2013/2014 school year which will include revised curriculum that’s aligned to common core standards. We will also have another misconceptions presentation called “Food for Thought” ready for this fall.

 

But also along this line, we’re addressing some of the tough issues, such as biotechnology (better known by the public as “GMO’s) to bring the truth about modern agriculture to the public. Though wading into some of these more controversial issues can be challenging, every time Arizona Farm Bureau does, we increase our outreach to the public. (Along these lines, Katie Aikins is brainstorming on a possible presentation on biotech for youth.)

 

In the area of engaging Arizona families in the Arizona agriculture story, we’re achieving this on several fronts. But one of the more fun ways is through our blogs with a new series called, “Ask a Farmer” and also through our “Faces of Arizona Agriculture on Facebook.”

 

In both instances we’re drawing thousands of visits with these efforts. In the “Ask a Farmer” series we’ve run four articles to date with answers by farmers that were addressing questions posed by our Arizona moms. We asked moms on the “Friends of Arizona Farm Bureau” Facebook page to ask us questions. Then in turn we found farmers willing to answer their questions. Each time we do these Q&A series articles we obtain hundreds of visits to our Fill Your Plate blog.

 

In the “Faces of Arizona Agriculture” on our Facebook page we’re weekly posting a photo and information on that farmer or rancher. To date, our most popular “Faces” generated 6,123 visits to that post.

 

In all of our efforts we continue to align to the objective of our Board of Directors: That Arizona Farm Bureau get the Arizona agriculture story out to the public.

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