I’m learning a lot about “grown-up” life these days, and while a lot of lessons go by the wayside of this blog, some of them are hard to justify not sharing. I recently spent a few days in Nashville for the AgChat Foundation‘s Agvocacy 2.0 Conference. Getting there was something of a catastrophe, but I arrived and it was well worth it. It was great to be in a room full of animated, committed people all geared towards spreading positive outlook for agriculture. As an ag communicator and a person who feeds off the atmosphere around her, I loved it.
The real reason it was so fantastic wasn’t the discussion about Twitter, Facebook, or row crops. It wasn’t even the free alcohol. (Although, bourbon beer tastes like candy. It really, truly does.) It was the people. These people that come together for these events are some of my nearest and dearest friends these days. New and old alike, I have to thank a few of them for being upstanding and valuable members of both the agvocacy community, and my own personal community.
If I had to pick one social media best friend, it would be Mike Haley (blog, Twitter). I joke with people that he’s just a “grouchy farmer from Ohio,” but he’s truly been about the best friend a person could hope for. He looks out for me, he knows how to give me a leg-up during the rough patches, and he knows how to make me laugh when I need it. He was the first “big brother” that I managed to adopt over social media. He’s been a lead in the agvocacy movement, but most importantly he’s been one of the people I know I can always turn to.
I have similar sentiments towards Darin Grimm (blog, Twitter). We have a lot in common, which would surprise some of the folks of the community. In other ways, we are complete and total opposites, and I think that is part of why we have such a great friendship. Darin would drop anything to help me if I needed it. (In fact, I’m sure there have been times that he HAS dropped everything for my sake.) I feel like I have a knack for bringing out Darin’s goofy side; just today, we were comparing videos of what we each considered to be “ugly” and “cute” kittens. (I didn’t think any of them were ugly, Darin thought most of them were.)
Jeff Fowle (blog, Twitter) and Ray Prock (blog, Twitter) are going to be in the same paragraph because, let’s face it, they’re attached at the hip. They complete each other’s sentences and they communicate with their eyes on a creepy level that makes me laugh. They prank each other, they tease each other, but they are also capable of forming great ideas when paired. They also fit into the “big brother” category. They both contribute to my well-being in their own way, whether it is through the occasional offerings of wisdom that Jeff imparts or the act of bending over backwards to help settle my travel arrangements such as Ray did for me in Denver. (Besides, Jeff is a great sport when you hijack his Twitter account, and Ray is a great contributor to the hilarity!)
Brent (Twitter) and Brooke Boersma (blog, Twitter) are about the best people you could ever meet. They genuinely care about the folks around them, as evidenced in their contribution to my travel to Nashville. Not only did they open their hearts to me as the naive non-traveler, but they have been willing and enthusiastic in every task we ask their help for through Know a California Farmer. I have dragged Brent (and his family) in front of a video camera so many times that it’s probably bordering on criminal, and he has yet to complain (much) about it.
My current boss/co-worker/guardian/handler and big sister, Katie Pinke (blog, Twitter), takes good care of me. She is a friend, a confidante, and a source of light and laughter. She tells it like it is, whether it’s in telling me I’ve screwed up, or telling me I need to take better care of myself. I can count on her for honestly, guidance, and support in all I do. She says I make her feel old when I say this, but she is a mentor in every meaning of the word.
Another mentor is Mark Gale (Twitter). Mark and I have worked together in several different situations. I interned for his ad agency, I’ve volunteered on side projects with him, and I’ve freelanced for him. In every instance, he was a joy to work with and learn from. Much like Katie, Mark values my well-being and individuality, and when we talk it’s clear that he cares about who I am and where I am going. I have been particularly blessed to have had internships with so many people like Mark and Katie. I need to make a mental note to visit Mark more often, as he is within driving distance of my college.
Zach (Twitter) and Anna Hunnicutt (blog, Twitter) are another couple who have contributed greatly to my well-being. They opened their home to me on my drive out to California, and have been steadfast and supportive friends since before that. Their faith and commitment to the community leaves me in awe, and their attention to the people around them is visible in all they do.
Then, there is Amanda Sollman (blog, Twitter), my sister-from-another-mister. I remember the day we applied that term to ourselves. It was at the first AgChat Conference. We were both sitting in the Twitter session that Jeff and Ray were giving, and I saw a tweet from Amanda on the TweetDeck screen. I can’t share it verbatim, but it said something along the lines of, “You know how Ray and Jeff are brothers-from-another-mother? Kelly and I are the girl version of that.” And she’s right. I’ve driven 5 hours one-way just to watch Hokus Pokus and a college football game with her. I even made a well-liked Facebook status about our reunion on Sunday night. We are in similar stages of our lives, and often face the same predicaments. She have a lot of odd similarities and striking differences, and it makes a nice little friendship cocktail.
These are not all the people that I care about because of AgChat. These are not all of the people who made ACFC11 special for me. If I went on detailing every person I met or was reunited with this week, the post would scroll for miles. It would never end. And anyone who didn’t make this list, I’m sorry if you were hurt or offended. This is not meant to belittle anyone who wasn’t featured; it was meant to praise the folks who were, for having a lasting and unforgettable impact on my life.
So, when you think about social media, think about people. When you think about agvocacy, think about a community. When you think about conferences, think of all the ways that you will make the most of that time learning and sharing with the people you have only experienced through pixels and typed word. The people featured on this list are real, true friends. While distance may stand between us, our relationships are strong enough to stand the trial of miles. They have all made a difference in my life.
My challenge to you is this: how can you make a difference in someone else’s life, even if you may only know them through the Internet? Consider it…is someone less a friend (or less in need of one) simply because you don’t see each other in person often? I think you know the answer.