Friday, March 30, 2012

An Agricultural Metaphor ~ Back Home!

It takes about 6.5 hours to drive the 450-mile stretch between our home in Billings, Mont., to my former stomping grounds in western Nebraska. After 15 years, I know nearly every crack and crevice of the two interstates and two-lane highways just about as well as I'm beginning to know the wrinkles carving their way onto my 43-year-old forehead. With the entire family (hubby or Papa & two kiddos) or by myself, the trek continues to require a couple necessary pit stops in Wyoming.  

Having lived away from my Nebraska Panhandle now longer than I lived there, I remain a Husker at Heart! Other than seeing the faces of my mom, step dad, three sisters, family and friends, nothing says "YOU'RE 'BACK HOME'" more to me than the view of the Scotts Bluff National Monument in my windshield. I admit, I've shed a happy tear or two even seeing that sandstone rock from the window seat of an airplane upon returning home for a visit from college.

Not only for myself, but I'm certain for other former Panhandle residents, the Monument serves as a natural "landing page" in our memory-recall. Even diaries and journals of 19th century westward emigrants, who traveled by covered wagons along the Oregon, Mormon and California trails, noted the natural marvel. History reflects that more than 250,000 travelers made their way through the area between 1843 and 1869. 

Scottsbluff and Gering, a.k.a., the Twin Cities, today boasts about 22,000+ residents. Besides the North Platte River, a little cross-town rivalry occasionally separates the two cities. But you see residents pulling together like recently, when Teresa Scanlan, from Gering was named Miss Nebraska 2010 and later Miss America 2011, becoming the youngest Miss America crowned since 1937. And when the 2011-2012 Scottsbluff High School Boys Basketball team brought home the state Class B Championship trophy for the first time since 1955.

Sunday = Fun Day!
I know its easy to take every essence of the people and environment around you for granted when it's all that your eyes see daily. Objects and emotions become sedentary......complacent.......unattached. For those reasons, that why I appreciate going "Back Home" to Nebraska. I always look forward to recalling the memories I made during my formative years and the new ones I make with my own children and extended family now.

Sunday's have and will continue to be my favorite day of the week: waking up to read the Sunday paper....hearing meadowlarks sing from fence post perches....heading off to Sunday school and then church.....anticipating the mmmmm....mmmmm...goodness of my mom's fried chicken and mashed potatoes.......responding to my dad's desire to go for a Sunday drive to only-God-knows-where....and topping off the day with some ice cream from the local creamery and a good Disney movie on TV. 

Sunday's have been days of celebrating births.....baptisms........Easter holidays......graduations......visits from friends........reaping the harvest for which we have sewn..... and most importantly for me now than ever before, listening intently to God's word. 

On this last trip back home, I was able to attend church service with my sister and mom in the same church that my hubby and I were married in nearly 16 years ago. The scripture reading for the day came from John 12:20-36. As I looked to find the passage in my Bible, my ears perked when I heard the worship leader say, "Today's timeless word is an 'Agricultural Metaphor', in which Jesus predicts His own death and explains to His disciples in verse 24: I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."

 I sat in amazement of God's grace and steadfastness when I realized how much he has always made Agricultural an integral part of my life. From as early as being a 4-H'er in Scotts Bluff County; showing market lambs and stocker feeders; participating in livestock judging; majoring in journalism and getting the "Ag Beat" for my J-School newspaper; writing for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agricultural & Natural Resources; being hired as an agricultural reporter and photographer my first year out of college; only later to be recruited by a public relations and advertising agency to write for one of the largest fertilizer company's; and now having my own public relations and marketing business to work with those associated with agriculture.

Which, when you drum it down, we ALL are associated with Agriculture. Farmers and ranchers grow and raise food. We, as consumers, eat food for nourishment and sustainability. Pretty simple! 

So, when I have remained faithful and obedient to God's nudging, He has always brought something to do with Agricultural into my life. I look forward to being the New Ag Columnist for the Gering Citizen Newspaper and helping meet the public relations and marketing needs for the upcoming documentary film, the Wheat Harvest Movie.   Looking forward to both adventures and having additional outlets to "agvocate" for our American farmers and ranchers.

I hope you will join me on this journey! Because, as in life, recalling the Agricultural Metaphor of Jesus, when you have a seed and it sits by itself ~ it bears no fruit! We need to work as a community of "seeds" to thrive!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

So, I Smell Like a Sale Barn! You Bet I Do!

When it comes to social media sophistication, you might qualify my husband, Mr. Lamp, a.k.a. "Lampy" and the surname behind my  Lamp Public Relations and Marketing business, as a casual Facebook-friendly bench warmer. Sure, he has a page. Sure, he has few family and friends and has accepted requests by association. But is he out there posting his thoughts daily? Uploading pictures, albums or videos? Or tagging his friends or "checking-in"? Yeah, not so much.

And that's okay! He's willing to learn and that's more the point. Lampy works for Axiom International as a national sales representative. The company has been a Billings-based, family-owned importer of general merchandise since 1983 and Lampy has worked there since 2000. Axiom offers its retail customers a variety of products ranging from party goods, pet toys, to sun and eye glasses. Lampy knows the new "cold call" has become connecting through a social media outlet. And, he's working to embrace that concept.

So, that's where I, with all my social media expertise (I have more than two Twitter followers ~ which makes me qualified since he doesn't even have an account or knows what's so "Pinteresting" about Pinterest) swoops in to coach my team captain! Actually, since I started my trek down the social media yellow brick road of networking communication, he looks at me as the family "Oz" expert. Plus, I have been asked on several occasions to speak, train, track, promote and utilize social media for my clients.

"Sniff, Sniff" Do You Smell That??
When the opportunity came this week to invite Lampy as my guest to the  Billings Advertising and Marketing Club luncheon to attend his first social media marketing training, I suggested he pick me up from my office at Billings Livestock Sales Commission.

Upon arriving and anticipating the introductions and start of the program, Lampy leans over, and what I thought would be an expression of affection from the man I've been happily married to for nearly 16 years, and says, 


"Yes," I whisper back.

"You kind of smell like the sale barn!"

Well, I'm certain that some women might take that verbal observation of their husband's olfactory system and translate it (as we often do) to the following:

"Hey Honey! You STINK!" 

Well, let me tell you why I REVERE, "Honey, you kind of smell like the sale barn!", as ONE OF THE BEST compliments he or anyone could have ever given me!

Billings LiveStock Commission (BLS) ~ Montana’s Pioneer Market
In 2009, I started Lamp Public Relations & Marketing to serve as resource/partner with existing agencies; and/or to add value to businesses that have in-house marketing departments. As a public relations and marketing professional, in addition to more than 20 years of agricultural experience as a daily newspaper reporter & photographer; PR agency senior writer to account executive; public speaker; business owner and marketing executive; I have developed a deep appreciation for our American farmers and ranchers. 

Social media certainly is not a fad, so adding the “Bright Ideas! Brighter Future!” as a tagline and now as a blog for my freelancing business was an attempt to help shed a positive light on promoting business and share stories that would help empower others.

Here are the reasons I choose to have my office at BLS ~  a "sale barn" ~ One of the Oldest, Continuous Livestock Auctions In America:
1. THE HISTORY ~ "Back in 1934, the Wolff Brothers left Denver, Colorado and landed in Billings, Mont., striking up a partnership with the late Arthur “Art” Langman.  Originally, they created a horse and mule auction and later added cows and bulls. Located on First Avenue North, they leased facilities from the Northern Pacific Railroad and set up shop.
Billings LiveStock Commission was the hub market as the Wolff-Langman Partnership developed markets also in Great Falls and Miles City, MT.  Along with auctioneer, Norman G Warsinske and cattle buyer, Lyle Devine, they created a livestock merchandising endeavor that has never been equaled.
In later years Art’s son, the late A.J. “Jerry” Langman and Ralph Cunningham, along with a fieldman by the name of Conrad Burns, now Montana’s US Senator, continued the BLS tradition.  During the late 1970’s Scott Langman, Jerry’s son, became the third generation operator and moved the Billings Live Stock Commission to its present location (home of Lamp Public Relations & Marketing) on the North Frontage Road east of Billings.
In 1984 Scott sold the business to Patrick K. Goggins, who operated it for some years.  Pat sold it to Jack McGuinness, who operated it for sixteen years.  BLS was  purchased in 2003 by Goggins, who totally rebuilt the stockyards, revamping it from head to tail.
BLS sells cattle every week on Thursdays for all classes.  The 4th weekend of each month, BLS becomes the “Horse Selling Capital of Western America”.  500 to 1100 head sell on any given weekend. The Northern Livestock Video Auction base operation is also located at BLS.  Several video sales a year are staged to an international market.

2. THE PEOPLE ~ At the risk of sounding like a name dropper, let's just say I have the opportunity to be around the Best of the Best in the cattle and horse industries any given day of the week. From World Champion Auctioneers, Saddle Bronc Riders, Team Ropers, Reiners, Cattle & Horse Breeders, to any and everyone associated with the livestock industry. Consignors and buyers have traveled to BLS for nearly 80 years from every state of the union (except for Hawaii I'm told) for the tradition of livestock selling through an auction. I have met people from New York, Florida, California, Washington and every state in between at BLS. The current BLS Horse Sale Managers, Jann & Bill Parker, are the best in the business promoting the horse sale market. The February 2012 BLS Horse went down in the books as the best Feb. horse sale since 2007. 

"No where in the United State can they (buyers) find the numbers or the quality they are able to see each and every month in Billings." ~ Bill Parker

3. THE MARKETPLACE MAGIC ~ I was on the auction block during a weekly cattle sale in May 2010, when I heard 2009 World Champion Livestock Marketing Association Auctioneer Ty Thompson, lean back from his microphone, after selling 500 lbs feeder steers for $1.35 (cwt), and say, 

"Holy $#^t! I can't believe that just happened!" 

"MARKETPLACE MAGIC" had just happened on the auction block AGAIN at BLS and I was personally there to witness the cattle market prices swing upwards that day! History as it happened!! Thompson reports that he has seen the cattle market explode since that magical day at BLS. This past fall in 2011, he sold 200-300 lbs feeders for $2.20-$2.30 (cwt). 

"That's the highest we've ever seen it," he says. "We have never seen it that high since, but that day was pretty shocking too."

I've personally seen pedigreed stud horses sell in the $40,000 to $60,000 range. And with that said, I've also seen well-trained ponies sell for as high as $14,000.

I don't know where else in the United States you can see this plethora of livestock ~ both cattle and horse ~ and bring this amount of consignors, buyers, prices in one place. If you know, please tell me!! I doubt I will move my office there. But in the meantime, if you want to find me in the Lamp Public Relations & Marketing office, just come to Billings Livestock Commission ~ the most successful combined cattle and horse sale barn in the United States.

And when you might just smell like a "sale barn" too!!

 I sure hope you don't mind the smell of success!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Salute to "Agvocates"! Meet My Friends!

My life revolves around agriculture. Always has! Always will! Yours does too, whether you think you're directly involved in crop or livestock production or not. If you eat food, you have a connection to agriculture. Today, as we celebrate National Agriculture Day, I'm reminded of my journey and dedicate this blog to recognize and salute some of the "agvocates" I have had the distinct pleasure of connecting with through social media or meeting in person and learning from these past few years! I "tip my hat" to them and the tireless hours, energy and resources they put into bringing awareness and understanding to the agricultural industry. 

The Journey
Up until my advanced reporting class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with my fellow journalism students, I only had an slight indication of my desire to become an agricultural journalist. Had it not been for every one of my J-School classmates rejecting the "Ag" beat, I may not have ever started writing for agriculture or started my own public relations and marketing business in June 2009. My passion then and now continues to be perpetuating, portraying and "agvocating" every and all positive aspects of what our American farmers and ranchers do.

It all started with social media. After jumping into Facebook and connecting with other "agvocates" I attended my first Montana Agri-Women meeting May 2010. I became a member that night when I heard, "Montana Agri-Women are a force for truth!" 

Later that year, I attended my first American Agri-Women national convention and became even more connected with those who had been in the "agvocating" trenches for longer than I could have imagined. Who could be against agriculture? Certainly an eye-opener to hear just how prevalent and powerful those opposed to livestock production had become through social media outlets.

In Dec. 2010, it became even more real to me. My travels took me from Billings, Mont.,  to Las Vegas for the first Summit of the Horse event. Not only did the event offer an opportunity to be amongst resounding leaders in the horse and livestock industry, including the well-known Temple Grandin, but it produced a onslaught of foes, including a television news station anchor who only interviewed the likes of a well-known animal rights "blogger" and took her rhetoric as fact for his story and coverage of the event. Not only did he use her as his only source of information, but it was later discovered and determined that she gave false identification in order to attend the event.

That's why we continually need those in agriculture to step-up their advocacy efforts and become an "AGvocate" for their industry.

Time to Meet My "AGvocate" Friends

  • Mindy Patterson: Communications & Media, Missourians for Animal Care
"I am working to fight against the threat of the radical animal rights movement nationwide. The threat of which is attempting to destroy the very heritage of American horseback, farming culture, and animal ownership -- and is ultimately an assault on American's private property rights.
Mindy remains diligent as one of the organizers for 2nd International Summit of the Horse - April 2-5 - Oklahoma City - The Summit is a gathering of men and women who make their living with horses, and those who care deeply about ecological balance on healthy lands. Also a summit of concerned citizens who understand what is necessary to keep the land, the horses, the people, the cultures, and the economies vibrant and healthy.

“Now is the time for all of those who care deeply about the land and the horse, to come together as ethical and moral horse people, and find ways to address ignorance and a lack of understanding by activists and policy makers.”
Update: Since the first Summit, President Obama signed a bill from the Ag Appropriations committee that for the first time since 2005, did not contain annual riders banning USDA inspection of horse meat, thus opening the door for horse processing in the United States to resume.   
However, the fight to restore the humane and regulated horse processing that will help restore the horse industry and normalize the equine economy continues. For more information on how you can help, go to

Ace of Sales  
Jody & her friend Mr. Freckles at Billings Livestock Commission


Ace of Sales

Tips for "Sharing Your Story"

1. Use social media outlets like Facebook or YouTube to upload your videos.

2. Forget being Perfect or Polished in the beginning!! Try Passionate and Positive!! Gets your point across every time!!

3. Just ASK!!!! No one has told me "no" yet!!!

Ace of Sales

American Agri-Women: Overview & Mission

American Agri-Women is the national coalition of farm, ranch and agri-business organizations. It seeks to educate its members and the public about agriculture and to promote agriculture and women's leadership.

AAW's mission is "to be a force for truth, a reasoned, non-partisan voice for the agricultural community to the public." It is not an auxiliary to any other farm organization. For more information visit

Ryan says he's just an ordinary kid from Arkansas who grew up on a cattle ranch and wanted to get out of Dodge. His family operated a commercial Angus and stocker cattle operation where he soaked in the ranch life.

He's currently working on his Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He became involved in blogging and social media because of his passion for the cattle industry and wanted to share his experiences with others. 

"I want to hear what others have to ask, share my knowledge, and sometimes learn with them. I want consumers to become more educated about food production before they criticize our work, and hopefully gain an appreciation for the work those of us in agriculture do daily. I want to hear others share their stories so we can stand up with a strong voice and tell the world how we produce the food on every plate. This is my journey, and I welcome you to come along for the ride."

Follow Ryan's journey:
Other blog titled “Sitting in the Pasture
Videos on YouTube at AgProud
"Friend" Ryan on Facebook and join the I am Agriculture Proud fan page
Follow Ryan on Twitter as AR_ranchhand and use the tag #AgProud with your posts
Send Ryan an email with questions, comments, or suggestions (


  • Scott Vernon: Professor of Ag Education & Communication, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; Founder of "I Love Farmers...They Feed My Soul"
Scott Vernon started "I Love Farmers...They Feed My Soul" in 2009 as a response to political events in California surrounding the Proposition 2 ballot initiative by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on poultry cages, veal production and swine gestation crates.

With Vernon as the lead, the effort was launched by a passionate group of college students as a unique, fresh and creative campaign to engage young people in a conversation about their food and who produces it. Entering its third year, "I Love Farmers...They Feed My Soul" has become one of the most popular efforts to support American family farmers and ranchers.

In a recent interview with the High Plains Journal, Vernon explains, "We are not a school club or a member organization. We are a 'movement,' much in the sense the way environmental groups are movements. We grow from grassroots enthusiasm and passion of young people. We organize around college campuses for convenience, but are not officially associated with any school,"

The group uses phrases and sayings on a variety of merchandise (the sell of apparel helps fund the cause) with phrases, "I'm hot. I'm dirty. I farm." And the most popular merchandise features the text "WTF? Where's the Food? Without the Farmer?" 

Over the past two years, the group has had several events in conjunction with fairs and agricultural activities. The first original event was held on Nov. 10, 2011, and was called "WTF? Day 2011." Teams of students from Cal Poly, Fresno State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Arkansas came together wearing WTF? T-shirts and spent the day on their campuses talking to their peers, asking them about their food and starting conversations.

"I Love Farmers...They Feed My Soul" is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. Donations are tax exempt. Support is needed and appreciated. To purchase apparel or learn more about I Love Farmers...They Feed My Soul, visit one of their sites on the Internet:

  • Michele Payn-Knoper, Cause Matters Corp.

Helping to connect farm & food. Michele Payn-Knoper (MPK) is a professional speaker inspiring connections for agriculture advocacy, food literacy & conversations about both. See
Michele Payn-Knoper, Cause Matters Corp.
For 10 years, MPK has been connecting the farm gate to consumer plate. She speaks around the world, building a community focused on agvocacy, such as #agchat/#foodchat on Twitter. 
Giving a voice to the people who feed the world by connecting farming with food choices, MPK also provides agricultural advocacy training, motivational farm keynotes and consulting for hand-selected projects related to agvocacy leadership, social media strategy and rural economic development. Check out MPK's social media sites at:

 "God Does Not Call the Equipped! He Equips the Called"  
So, do you think you have what it takes to be an "Agvocate"? You bet you do! Remember, if you eat food, you're connected to agriculture! 
One of the best greeting cards I ever received came in the form of a "Thank You" from the Johnson County CattleWomen of Wyoming after being one of the guest speakers at their first summit. The note stated, "Thank you so much for speaking at the first annual Women's Ag Summit. You were a hit and we love your energy and honest love for the ag industry. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!"
Honestly, I'm certain that I enjoyed it more! While it wasn't the first time I  had an opportunity to speak to a group, it was the first time I organized a presentation on How to Use Social Media in Agriculture. Thanks to Michele Payn-Knoper's advanced social media class at the American Agri-Women national convention, I felt confident and equipped!
I do not take my passion, energy and honest love for the ag industry lightly. I will do my part to use the tools like social media to continually share our stories for truth and hope for others to do the same. 
As we celebrate National Agriculture Day 2012, go thank your American farmers and ranchers. Their livelihood and our future are at "steak". It's the reason we "AGvocates" do what we do.