Participants came from as far away as Germany to attend Ag Chat's Cultivate and Connect Conference in Kansas City recently, but it also attracted many up-and-coming ag advocates from across the Central Plains region.

Participants came from as far away as Germany to attend Ag Chat's Cultivate and Connect Conference in Kansas City recently, but it also attracted many up-and-coming ag advocates from across the Central Plains region.
Organizers and presenters encouraged them to push beyond their comfort zone and find at least one new thing to take home and try.
Advocating for modern crop technology is nothing new to Sondra Pierce, of Platteville, who with her husband farms corn, sugar beets and alfalfa. They will be forced to make some adjustments to their crop rotation after the Boulder County commissioners voted to phase out production of genetically modified crops on county open space land.
"The corn doesn't concern us as much as the beets," she explained. "We would never go back to growing conventional beets again because of all the chemicals we would have to use."
Pierce is active in Colorado's Common Ground organization, which has stretched her to become more visible as an ag advocate. Now she's ready to take the next step.
"I really want to start video-blogging. That's something I'm really interested in," she said.
She already has a blog, Sprouting Reflections, but until now she's put off publishing any posts. By capturing quick videos from the field, rather than having to sit down and write out her thoughts, she's hoping to overcome the uncertainty and second-guessing that have held her back so far.
"I always have my phone with me," she said. "We just got done baling corn stalks the other day, and the last day is always a rush. But I'm always coming across moments that would make a perfect blog video. People don't realize the little things that make up what we do every day."
Now that she's attended her first Ag Chat conference, she's ready to begin.
"It's inspiring being with a whole bunch of people who are already doing this and are successful at it. Everyone is so easy to talk to. I feel like knowledge is power," she said.
Kirsten Angell, a registered dietitian, traveled to the meeting from Ellis, Kansas. Her husband, Blake, is a cattle buyer for Meyer Natural Angus. The couple is in the process of moving to Gove, Kansas, to take over running her family's ranch, the Lundgren Angus Ranch.
"I'm working on transitioning my business to what I'm calling 'Both Sides of the Plate,'" she said. "I have farm-to-plate knowledge, growing up on a ranch in western Kansas, and I have the plate-to-palate knowledge of being a registered dietitian. I have a passion for my agriculture roots and for the people who produce our food. Unfortunately, farmers and ranchers are some of the unhealthiest people, because they are not taking care of themselves. That is something I am hoping to help with."
Angell plans to use blogging and public speaking to fill an educational role. "I want to advocate for ag and speak to ag groups on the health side of things, to help them live a healthier lifestyle," she said.
"It's very motivating, very inspiring," she said of the conference. "I have tons of light bulbs going off. What I call the hamsters in my brain are working overtime right now. I'm excited to move forward."
Dawn Suderman is from the Central Kansas town of Hillsboro, where she writes a blog for the local grain and farm supply cooperative. She is originally from Chicago, but gave up the rat race of corporate America to pursue a passion that was first kindled by childhood visits to her uncle's farm in Indiana. Through an online message board, she met and married a farmer and now aims to make as much of her income as possible from agricultural pursuits.
"My personal blog has gotten a little bit discouraging. I've been in Kansas for five years now, and I don't always feel like I know everything I need to know," she said. "I want to do a better job of refining my content. I want it to be more than just a share fest."
Her favorite audience is women who have left the city for the farm or dream about doing it. Her Facebook page, City Life to Farm Life and Wife, allows her to reach out to them and share what she's learning.
She said the conference provided her with fresh inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose.
"I'm here to further the cause of agriculture," she said. "This has given me a lot of new strategies. It's really good to network and meet other people and see how they do things."