It was so fun! The farmers who go are outgoing and like to talk. They purposely seat you to mingle at meals, so you meet interesting people.
For instance, I met:
- A seventh generation rice and soybean farmer from Arkansas. He farms 4000 acres. I'd never met a rice farmer before and had a million questions.
- A rancher/writer/photographer from Wyoming. (Heather blogs here.) When I asked, "Where is your farm?" She said, "We don't farm - there's no water where we are. We have a ranch." Which is why the name of the national organization is Farmers & Ranchers. I clarified it with her - to her, a farm is a place where you grow crops. She has cattle on tons of acres, which to me is definitely a ranch!
- Tons of cash crop farmers from sea to shining sea. Whenever I said we had a dairy, they'd say, "I've met a ton of dairy farmers!" Which is because there were tons of Michigan people there, and Michigan has a lot of dairy farms.
One of the big topics of discussion - as it frequently is - is how to reach our customers through social media. I watched the collegiate discussion meet and the final question concerned that. One student said that getting internet access to farms was a problem. (Really? Where?!) Another said that you couldn't trust farmers to say what they're supposed to say, because they would 'shoot from the hip' and needed intense training. (This kid had a low opinion of farmers.) Another finished her conclusion with, "Hashtag, yfr12." I liked that, because she was citing the twitter symbol and keyword of the conference. (Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher were also mentioned in the discussion. Can you get more youthful than that?)
It was exciting - a convention center full of people who love their jobs and like to talk about it. Blogs, Facebook, and twitter are fantastic, but there's nothing better than laughing with people in person. No hashtag required.