Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ag Jobs A to Z: Blogger

Photo Credit: Latham Seeds
I'm really excited to highlight Shannon Latham for the next letter in Ag Jobs A to Z. We met the summer after my freshman year at Iowa State through the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. I was fortunate to work as Shannon's intern, dividing my time between her family businesses. During that summer, I grew to admire her creativity and heart for the community. Shannon wears many hats in North Central Iowa including mother, business woman, Girl Scout leader and entrepreneur. Today, she shares her perspective as a blogger. Thanks, Shannon!

1. Where did you go to school? 
I double majored in Ag Journalism / Public Service & Administration in Ag at Iowa State University.
2. What inspired you to become a blogger?
I truly enjoy writing. Blogging piqued my interested because I have a passion for writing, and I enjoy getting to know people and learn new information when I conduct interviews for articles. Because I had worked for six years in an advertising agency before going to work for our family business, I was friends with people who developed websites and I was aware of “social communities” that were being created online. I started following pioneering blogs like “Nuts about Southwest.” This Southwest Airlines blog is a fun and clever way to connect with customers on a daily basis, so I decided to borrow that idea.

3. How long have you been a blogger? 
I started blogging for our business, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, in 2008. Last year I started a second blog, “Fairytale Beginnings and Every Day Realities,” on as a way to share farm life and activities underway at our pumpkin patch. I believe blogging is a great way for us to virtually show our farms to consumers and to help address common misconceptions.  Since food is a common denominator among all people, I use recipes as bridge builders with my audience.

4. What skills are necessary to be a successful blogger? 
Like any career or hobby, having a good network is key to blogging. I rely on my contacts – and friends of friends – to help me secure sources for my articles. I believe my background and training in Journalism helps me identify story ideas (i.e. ideas for blog posts) and helps me conduct interviews. My journalism training also taught me the importance of writing a nutshell paragraph and outlining the story. It’s important to draw readers into your article and then give them information that’s useful and relevant to them. My Journalism professors also stressed verifying facts and finding credible sources… I wish more bloggers did that! We all know you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, so I hope that my readers look to my blogs as a credible and reliable source of information.

5. How does your job fit into the agricultural industry? (Who do you work with? Who do you help? Who helps you?) 
Before I post anything on my blog or any social media channel for that matter, it must be one of these 3 things: (1) pro agriculture in general; (2) pro farming or (3) pro community. My main objective is to be an advocate for agriculture in general and the seed industry in particular. I want to put a face on farming and help foster dialogue between pro

ducers and consumers. That’s why I’m a member of CommonGround Iowa and also why I’m serving as chair of the Communications Committee for the American Seed Trade Association.

To help protect our livelihoods and maintain the viability of our farm-based businesses, we must engage with consumers and promote ag literacy. We also must engage politicians and help them understand how proposed legislation or rules impact our livelihoods. Agriculture and farming groups can’t afford to be silent. If we don’t educate others about our business, who will? If you don’t tell your ag story, who will? Chances are some anti-ag group will tell a story that you won’t like!

6. What career/internship opportunities are there for people interested in blogging? 
Look for communications-related internships to help you make connections within the ag/communications field. I believe you’ll be a more interesting blogger if you write from experiences you’ve had like travel, agronomy / crop scouting, raising beef, baking or cooking, etc. What’s your area of expertise? How can you create a niche and provide information of value?

7. Anything else you would like a student audience to know? 
If you’re interested in blogging, make sure you’re familiar with copyright laws. If you’re copying information from a source, be sure to give credit and/or hot link. Know that the objective of every blog post is to drive traffic to a site. You need to look for ways to draw people to yours, but you also have to be careful that you’re not citing so much information from another online article that you’re actually prohibiting people from that site. Also note that contest rules are continually changing. If you’re planning to run an online giveaway, be sure to read the most current rules.

Thanks again to Shannon for sharing perspective. It's great to have fellow blogging friends like her. Come back soon for the next Ag Jobs A to Z highlight! Thanks for reading!


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