In a Crisis…

You do your best to prevent it, but sometimes there’s no avoiding a crisis.  On a farm this could be a disease outbreak, an accident, a fire, natural disaster, environmental damage or even death.  What do you do when the media comes knocking, looking for the story to your loss?

First and foremost, get your game plan together.  You can come up with a crisis communications plan before an issue ever arises.  For the unexpected situation, you might not have time.  Once the immediate dangers have been addressed, what can you do if you know the media is next?  Things to consider -

Who is the spokesperson? – Who will field calls, do interviews and act as the face of the farm? If a news van was to show up, what are the employees supposed to say?  Who answers the phone?  How can they help direct those looking for a story?

Outline your facts – What was the issue, what was done to address it, how are you working to correct the issue, is there concern for the community, environment or families involved?  If you were a reporter, what would be the facts you would want?  Have those ready for the interview.   Write it down and feel free to refer to your notes.

Practice - If the interview will be with TV or radio, you can practice your response.  Sometimes you might get a second take, but don’t count on it.  You can ask for the questions they might be asking ahead of time so you can have the most up-to-date information.  Whether they give you a heads up or not, find some one to act as a reporter and do a few run troughs with possible questions and how you want to respond.

Avoid “No Comment.” – Even if you have a comment, if you are not available to answer a phone or are away from the office, since you know – there is a crisis to deal with – you might still be published with “Farmer was unavailable to comment.”  Reporters have deadlines and if you don’t get back to them even within a few hours, you might not get your story told the first time.  If they do get a hold of you the first time, “no comment” can look like a big bad farmer trying to cover something up.  Farmers are honest people.  Be honest.  You don’t need to disclose every detail, but the facts and your concern are important to rely.  If you don’t tell your side of the story, someone else will for you.

Follow up – If you missed their first call, call them back!  Most of the time a follow up story will be published and this is your chance to share the farm’s side.  Even after the story, if appropriate, a thank you email or phone call goes a long way.  You might even become the local voice of farmers if a future ag story pops up.

It will die down – News becomes news, revolves a few times, and then dissolves as soon as the issue does.  The first few days might be daunting, but in a few weeks or month, the hype usually gets quiet.

Review - You survived, a little worse for where, but you’re still kicking.  Take time to go over the situation with your team and review first off how to prevent it, what other areas need to be address, and what would you do differently if something like this happened again.

Share positive news – A crisis brings the spotlight on you on your worst day, but agriculture is so much more than that one day.  Share news with your community on field days, expansions, even through social media with the every day happenings.  Babies are born, a new crop comes up, you’re still going strong.  Be open to sharing farm life.

 

It’s always good to have a plan and below are a few resources that help in preparing before a crisis hits -

Dairy Response Center

MAEAP Emergency Planning for the Farm

Pork Checkoff Farm-Level Crisis Plan

The 5 C’s of Farm Crisis Management

 

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Ode to the Scrapbook…

I destroyed my house over the weekend.  Like for the first time since being married, unloaded and sprawled out on nearly half of our living space destroyed.  In an attempt at spring cleaning my crafting supplies, I decided it was high time to finish what will soon be my last scrapbooks.  At a few major events I have have made similar explosions, but never before have I really had to share that space with another.  We survived my paper bombs and the endless piles of photos and pages that littered our dining room and living room.  The mess is on going, but the work is closer to completed.

Scrap booking has been a love hate relationship for me, going on about 10 years now.  First introduced at a young age to Creative Memories, I thought it was so fun to finally put all those photos in order and have something to look back on.  The first photos may even have been printed from actual film.  As high school graduation approached, the first paper explosion took place.  Three weeks of nonstop scrapping later, I had my entire life up till that point documented.  Similar life events years later followed and along the way, I introduced my mom into the world of scrapping.  She even became a consultant, dedicated a room in the house to her supplies, and attends a few scrapping retreats.

Enter the digital age.  Also the fact I want to downsize my crafting supplies and my love for our wedding album that is an actual printed book.  So in true Nicole fashion, a bomb has went off in our house where for a few short days, nothing but pages and photos will consume my free time.  At the end of this massacre I will have said good by to my scrap booking days.  There are so many options now that I can simply download my photos from my phone to a photo site, and from there design a digital book that they will print for me.  It saves me time, money and a whole lot of space!  I’m starting with Blurb, wish me luck!

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I believe in the future of agriculture…

State Officer Team 2006-2007This week is the Michigan FFA State Convention and if nearly 3,000 FFA members and supporters converging on Michigan State University’s campus doesn’t get you excited about the future of agriculture, I don’t know what will.

I love getting the opportunity to work with young people and this year I took a bigger role helping to coordinate a career panel workshop to be part of convention.  For the last few years, I’ve always served as a moderator for the event. This year we made the change for more interaction between FFA members and panel speakers.  They had the chance to learn about different sectors including livestock/sales, plant/biotechnology, horticulture, conservation and ag services.  The ag teachers and I threw in a few cents of our own for those students considering communication and education.

With a room full of mostly senior high school students, they too were excited for the opportunities that lay ahead.  While not everyone may become a farmer, with more that 300 career options out there, most likely you can find your fit.

It’s an exciting challenge that we will have to face in our lifetimes.  There will be 9 billion people on the planet by 2050 and they all need to eat.  Not only that, but today, the average age of a farmer 58.  Don’t want to go in to farming?  According to the Michigan Agri-Business Association, about 30 percent of the industry’s managers are expected to retire within five to 10 years.  Consultants, management, and even ag teachers are on the look out for their replacements as the baby boomers move into retirement.

A recent study by Purdue University found between 2010 and 2015, an estimated 54,400 jobs would be created annually in agricultural, food and renewable natural resources. To help fill those needs, 46 percent of those jobs will be filled by someone not coming from an agriculture program.

FFA gives students a step ahead, whether it is someone like me in the beginnings of their career or Greenhand members just beginning the journey.  FFA provides life lessons, hands on experiences and the confidence to take on the world by storm. If ever there was a time to support the future of agriculture and the FFA, the time is now.

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2013: The Year of the Wreaths

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My own personal holiday wreath converted from burlap center pieces from our wedding.

It seems 2013 was a rough year for regular blog posts.  Is the end of January to late to start with New Year’s Resolutions?  Just as in any relationship, you have to work on it.  So here we go, and even a non-ag post!  Did you know that sometimes on the weekends I like to refer to myself as a little Betty Sue Homemaker?  It’s like “Betty” Crocker and Martha Stewart come together and creativity starts to flow.  Pretty soon, I think I can make something either in the kitchen or in craft form.

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The best beauty to date, a Christmas gift to an Aunt.

Perhaps I could blame my genes, several women in my family have been successful in the kitchen and with crafting.  My mom however is not the ideal Martha, so it seems some of these adventures I’ve embarked on with for the heck of it and with the help of the internet.  When I moved into my first adult apartment, that’s life after college, I was bitten with the nesting bug and decided to take up sewing.

That is, I found some helpful links online, purchased a teen-sewing machine for all of $30 on Amazon, and measured out my living room sliding doors for curtains and matching pillows.  A novice $200 mistake later, I managed to make some pretty great linens, and still had yards of fabric left for future projects.  Move to present day where my tastes and my husbands are a bit different and I have a drawer packed full of fabric!

It seems over the last year our friends have been married off right and left, which has created the perfect opportunity for the homemade gift.  Let’s be honest, wine glasses are great and all, but the homemade thoughtful gifts are truly the ones you remember from your wedding.  Hopefully my friends have appreciated my Martha-ness and sometime throughout the year, these little wreaths are welcoming them into their homes.

And with still oodles of fabric remaining, the goal this year is to gift it out.  I have some totes and other projects that hopefully will get completed in the upcoming year.  The Burlap Wreaths are simply a wire wreath frame and dozens of 1 x 8 inch strips of burlap tied on.  Add in some ribbons and floral accessories, bam! Holiday Wreath!  The fabric ones have a bit more involved, I used this blog post as a tutorial.  Enjoy!  And I hope to be back sooner than later. :)

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The first fabric wreath for wedding-mani 2013.

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Only a sewing machine, hand saw, hot glue gun and wire cutters required for this one!

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No matter how I placed it that “C” and I could not come to an agreement

 

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Winning Wines…

525625_10102158849410294_1261086831_nRed, white, sweet or dry, with 102 Michigan wineries around the state, there’s bound to be one or two that grab your fancy. Have you been out to Michigan’s wine country, it’s expanding, and gorgeous!

Michigan is similar to Germany’s climate for wine making, which means we can make a mean Riesling. With advances in cold hearty varieties, more and more grapes are thriving. What started as an extension of our juice grape and fruit industry, Michigan’s wine acreage has doubled in the last decade to 2,650 acres today. With 15,000 acres of vineyards in Michigan, Michigan is the fourth largest grape growing state.

Each year the wine industry comes together to compete at the Michigan Gold Medal and Spirit Competition. This year a record 450 wines were entered. Of that group, 42 wines were awarded a gold medal, including six double medals.

You might notice several winners this year are located on Old Mission Peninsula.  My wonderful girlfriends surprised me last year with a limo tasting around the peninsula as part of my bachelorette party.  I HIGHLY recommend taking this wine tour.  It’s beautiful and the wine is fabulous – that day I believe included at least 30 tastes!

If you want to taste the cream of the crop, add these Best of Class Winners to your wine list, you can’t go wrong!

Sparkling: Black Star Farms 2012 “BeDazzled”
Dry White: Chateau Fontaine 2012 Pinot Blanc
Dry Red: Peninsula Cellars 2011 Cabernet Franc
Semi-dry White: Boathouse Vineyards 2012 “Knot Too Sweet” Riesling
Semi-dry Red: Karma Vista Vineyards 2012 Devil’s Head Red
Dessert: Brys Estate 2011 “Dry Ice” Riesling Ice Wine

Complete list of Medal Winners

While those winning wines should be enjoyed with dinner or desert, this Sangria recipe can take any old wine and turn it into a crowd pleaser.

1 frozen orange juice concentrate
1-1.5 liters of red wine – I use a bottle of Sangria, but Cabernet Francs or any other red wine will do
Ginger Ale or Sprite
Cut up fruit, about 2 cups – I like strawberries and blueberries, any combination should do

Mix concentrate, wine, and about 12 oz of pop, add fruit and enjoy!

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Proud to be from West Michigan…

Growing up in Michigan’s west side, I never realized the abundance of agriculture and diversity compared to over areas of the state.  It’s a top region for blueberries, greenhouses, dairy, hogs and pigs, vegetables and so much more!  In fact, more than 60 diverse ag crops call the West Michigan home.

Check out this article on the $1.8 billion ways West Michigan Agriculture rocks - 

Market value of West Michigan’s agricultural production estimated at $1.8 billion

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Banishing Writers Block…

In just 10 days, I will officially be celebrating my first anniversary as a Mrs.  I never thought I would have been away from posting for so long.  First you’re busy, then you start slacking, some days you all together forget, and well, here we are a whole eight months later without a post.  What have I been working on in the meantime?  My first post back is going to be a short recap of this year’s topics I’ve been talking about.

The good news?  I will be recommitting to posting.  It may have been about food or farming in the past, but with this new commitment, I’m hoping to also expand into other fun and random things I love – crafting, shopping, travel… anything that grabs my interest.  Without farmers we may have no food, but without all those other facets, there would be no me.

Enjoy the journey!

Super heroes unite at Ag Expo

Could you imagine being covered with “cool packs,” not being able to talk, and walking around with more than 25 pounds of fabric in 90 degree weather for hours at a time? That honorable feat is carried out by two of the best dressed “Heroes” every year during the Michigan Ag Expo… full story

Solar powered farms?

Robots, GPS, alternative energy and hands-free driving – would you ever expect to find these high tech tools on a farm? From robotic milking systems, tractors with GPS that can drive for you, and even wind and solar power stations, farmers today are exactly that, high tech.  Want to see some of these advances in technology and how one Michigan farmer is using real estate on his barn roofs to help power the farm? Michigan’s Breakfast on the Farm events start this weekend, Saturday, June 15th at the Reid Dairy Farm in Jeddo, Michigan, located in St. Clair County… full story

It’s June Dairy Month!

Have you ever seen those “California Milk” commercials? The cows are happy and the grass always looks greener. By the end, a glass of California chocolate milk doesn’t sound so bad. “Psssst.” I have a secret for you. In the dairy isle, chances are whether or not it’s marked, you can easily get Michigan milk and support our dairy farmers here at home… full story

Earth Day every day

The original environmentalist was actually the farmer. The man (or woman) whose primary job is to be a caretaker of the land. Who provides for his animals and every year makes improvements to the farmstead. The man who at the end of the day is optimistic he’s making for a better tomorrow, passing down what his father gave to him, and he hopes generations will continue. Less land, less resources and less of his fellow farmers, if he can’t succeed, we will all be at a loss.

In Michigan, we know our farmers are doing the right thing. In fact, they’re jumping through the ropes, voluntarily committing to assessments that tell what they’re doing right and what needs to be improved. Sometimes it takes years, for others it’s a matter of months. And with a seal of approval, a verifier from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development delivers the sign for out front that says so. “This Farm is Environmentally Verified.” It’s all due to the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, or MAEAP… full story

Uncorked and toasting to wine-os everwhere!

Learning about all things agriculture on a daily basis, I have truly come to love and appreciate one of Michigan’s expanding industries – Grapes and WINE! For all the beer lovers out there, I too have a deep appreciation for microbrews, but wine might win by just an inch. Why?

Michigan’s wine industry combines my three most favorite things into one fruitful decadence. First – AGRICULTURE. With 101 wineries in the state and just over 2,600 acres of vineyards, everything from the varieties of grapes, weather, climate and a touch of luck go into a great harvest. Each change in season provides unique conditions for each year’s vintage… full story

Celebrating all things Michigan Agriculture

March is full of promotion and excitement in the agriculture community. Governor Rick Snyder declared March not only Food and Agriculture Month, but Michigan Maple Syrup Month as well! Many events are happening across the state to celebrate Michigan’s first crop – maple syrup, and the ag industry as a whole. This third week of March is even recognized as National Agriculture Week! … full story

Get counted

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?”

Outside of a season of love, this year, farmers are getting counted. With less then two million farms in the U.S., every one of those farmers counts. The 2012 Census of Agriculture was delivered to farms all over the nations this past December, with about 72,000 mailed in Michigan… full story

One of a kind Christmas giving

We’ve seen increased support for buying local throughout the year, but have you thought about giving local for the holidays? Black Friday is a frenzy of holiday shopping, but this year, you may have noticed a lot of support for Small Business Saturday.  Supporting Michigan businesses throughout the holidays is easier than you think, especially when it comes to Michigan’s agricultural products… full story

Real Michigan Christmas Trees

The center of the holiday for many will be focused around friends, family, and of course the Christmas tree. From handmade ornaments with school pictures, to the traditional angel or star that’s been sitting atop the tree for generations, the tree is smack dab in the middle of all Christmas traditions.  Getting your tree this year from a U-cut, lot or even the big box store, most likely you’re picking out a real Michigan grown Christmas tree… full story

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