Raised-Bed Garden Chronicles
Start of Week 3
Gardening is one of my passions and this summer is the first time I’m making a full-fledged effort to grow a variety of vegetables, in addition to my herbs and perennials. I’m using my blog to chronicle How My Raised-Bed Garden Grows. This is also the first time I’ve built 4 square-foot, raised-bed gardens. It’s also a first for planting seeds outdoors. Everything was pretty easy to do, just involved my labor — which is fine, because the weather’s been wonderful and gardening counts as exercise.
What you’re viewing is two full weeks of garden growth. I’ll shoot more photos every day to chronicle progress. I’ll also be adding more pictures to my Pinterest Gardening Board, so please visit there as well. And of course, I welcome your advice and photos of your garden. Click on Let’s Talk and we’ll connect green thumbs.
Food. Flowers. Friends. Those are my passions. I try to capture and communicate my passions through my photos. So on this Valentine’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, I will share many of my passions with you.
Most business people I know are active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but the majority don’t follow blogs or write their own. “There’s no value,” they say, especially since social media already is a time drain.
What if, by subscribing to just ONE blog, and interacting with that blogger you’d get a free ad seen by tens of thousands of Chicago Tribune readers?
It happened to me today and it’s the perfect example of why every business short on PR resources should follow at least one blog. Not just any blog, mind you, but blogs about topics that interest you (that’ll keep you coming back), and that are supported by a local newspaper. Most newspapers have bloggers. Many Chicago Tribune reporters are bloggers, and the Trib also owns the ChicagoNow network of community bloggers. I follow ChicagoNow bloggers Catherine Morgan and Judy Marcus.
Besides loving PR, I also love to eat, cook and create sweet things. So when I heard about Judy’s Sugar Buzz Chicago, I became an instant follower. I subscribe to her blog and receive emails about new blog items. I send her ideas all the time, and after mentioning that my sister opened Jam ‘n Honey, a new breakfast restaurant in Chicago’s trendy Lincoln Park, Judy wanted to learn more.
Yes, it was wonderful having Judy blog about the restaurant, which is only weeks old and already has lines of diners waiting for tables. But here’s the icing on my cake: The blog’s parent company — the Chicago Tribune — began sprinkling links to her blog within the online version of the paper. Here is a screen capture of my sister’s restaurant posted adjacent to a local story that attracted tens of thousands of readers today.
The headlines lured readers to a news story and then drew them to valuable real estate about Jam ‘n Honey Restaurant. How long did that info remain on the news page? Maybe about eight hours today (the ChicagoNow promos interchange regularly online). But hey, eight hours of free PR hours is far better than zero hours of free PR!
By having fun and by staying in touch with people who write about my favorite things, this local restaurant received valuable exposure to thousands of readers! PR doesn’t get any sweeter than this!
For many farmers, the hardest part about social media is taking the plunge. So maybe you just need a little shove, a few small steps to get you started? That was the topic we covered today on RFD Now, a program produced by the Illinois Farm Bureau and carried on 70 radio stations in the Midwest. I was joined by Chris Klein, the owner of Klein’s Farm and Market out of western Illinois. Chris’ farm has had a Facebook presence for about a month, and she launched it immediately following one of my social media workshops for farmers. We talked with RFD Radio hosts Julie Root and Allan Jarand. (You can hear a recording of the segment at http://www.farmweeknow.com/radio.aspx).
If you’re not on Facebook and eventually hope to establish a business presence, here are a few things you should do now:
- Sign up and get a personal account so you can have access to Facebook and see what other farmers are doing.
- Go to other farms and businesses in your community and begin Liking them to see how they’re using Facebook.
- Find your friends and relatives and begin friending them. You’ll turn to those friends when you establish your Facebook business presence.
- After you see what others are doing, identify your own business goals for Facebook? Get 100 likers by Labor Day? Boost sales at your market or farm? Increase sales of a specific item?
- Identify how you’ll achieve that goal. Will you simply generate awareness about the farm? Promote special produce? Provide helpful growing tips for the back yard vegetable garden? Advice for how to prepare the produce you grow? Maybe you just want to establish a face on farming, so your customers understand the hard work involved in getting food to their tables?
As a newbie on Facebook, it can still be overwhelming. So make it easy to transition into social media:
- Your first month, just interact with other farms or businesses. See how they respond when you post items on their wall. You’ll find many businesses don’t reply at all. I call that anti-social media. If you are not going to have a dialogue on Facebook, why bother being on it at all? Your “Likers” don’t want to hear about your sales or promotions. They want to know who YOU ARE. Provide them with something valuable — your expertise. And have a conversation. Take advantage of this marvelous network!
- Also, If you have a smart phone, download a free Facebook app and start taking photos and uploading them onto your Facebook page. It’s very easy once you try.
- Once you have a comfort level, you can use your existing account to set up a Facebook page for your business.
- Be sure you take advantage of the business info tab to give the fullest description about what you do and how you help your customers. Provide complete address and contact information. And be sure you use key words so if Facebook user are searching for a strawberry farmer in Udina Illinois, you’ll drive them directly to your Facebook page.
Go with your instincts — that’s the simplest rule I followed as a reporter looking for a story for WXRT newscasts and now as a PR/marketing professional working on behalf of clients. My instincts never seem to fail me. Here’s proof — this past week.
My client, Ambrosia Euro American Patisserie is having a fundraiser this Saturday, May 21st at their cafe in Barrington. Deborah and Richard Rivera are hosting Sweet Relief for Chef Rob Macey, a respected restaurant owner and food service pro who is burdened by medical bills following a very risky brain surgery this year.
The Riveras and Macey are rock stars among foodies here in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and downtown as well–they have a huge following of foodies and industry professionals. So when Debby and several of Rob Macey’s friends decided on a fundraiser, the entire restaurant community responded with generosity, as did their many customers. The donations for help and silent auction items have been pouring in from Ambrosia customers as well as the vendors who serve some of the Chicago area’s finest restaurants. Rob Macey himself has been so humbled by the outpouring that he is insisting on preparing some of the buffet dishes himself in Ambrosia’s kitchen. Two local musicians will be performing in the bakery/cafe. I had a strong hunch this would attract many local journalists. Why?
It’s a great story about
- great people and their passion to help others.
- how food drives passion and devotion to excellence
- loyalty and friendship, sacrifice and taking care of each other.
I told Debby that this is more than your typical, run-of-the-mill fundraiser and suggested that we reach out to local media to help us spread the word. Every reporter I contacted wanted interviews with Rob and Debby. See the coverage, which all occurred this past week.
Friends cook up fundraiser to help chef, Chicago Tribune, Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Friends Rally to help Ailing Chef, Patch.com/Lake Zurich, Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Of all the great quotes that came out of these stories, this is the one I love the most:
What the heck did I do in my life to have so many friends and people to offer to help?
Hope to see you at Ambrosia this Saturday night!
Today the Chicago Tribune wrote a wonderful story about farmers using social media in northern and northwestern Illinois and mentioned the workshop I presented to encourage other farms to jump on the social media band wagon. The story is headlined: Farmers plant seeds on social media.
- Twin Garden Farms Web Site, Facebook Page Gary Pack at Twin Gardens Farms has a fantastic web site as well as a YouTube channel. He puts his heart into social media, as well as his delicious Mirai corn, which is sold at Chicago Farmer’s Markets.
- Klein’s Farm and Garden Market — they launched their FB page just after attending my social media workshop. Follow them and spread the word. They are wonderful people.
- Stade’s Farm – if you live in McHenry County, no doubt you’ve visited Stade’s. Sign up for their newsletter too! And don’t miss their apple cider donuts come harvest time!
- Heritage Prairie Farm – Their social web properties will knock you out! Just amazing work. These folks know social media. You’ll find them on Flickr, FB, YouTube, etc. Plus they host these all natural farm dinners throughout the summer and fall. You will be so impressed.
- Woodstock Farmers Market – I love Woodstock’s market for the variety and for the farmers.
- Chicago Farmer’s Markets – one of the best cities for farmer’s markets anywhere!
Those are just a start. I’ll add more as I think of them.
If you have a favorite that’s not on my list, please share with us by leaving a comment with the link.
The RFD Radio Network, a production of the Illinois Farm Bureau, has invited me to monthly appearances on their morning news program called Farm Week Today. I’ve been interviewed by hosts Julie Root and Alan Duran about the growth in the number of farmers hitching their tractors to social media. Each week we delve into a new topic related to social media.
In this excerpt, I discuss how social media lets farmers begin conversations with their customers long before their crops sprout out of the ground.
Most people don’t put farming and social media in the same sentence, but farmers are jumping on the Facebook bandwagon, whether they’re agri-tourism destinations such as Stade’s Farm in Johnsburg, specialty farmers, organic farmers such as Sweet Home Organics in LaFox and artisan producers of cheese, jams or natural soaps, fibers and wool. You meet them at your local farmer’s markets, providing advice and guidance on how to prepare their locally grown produce. They establish customer relationships that unfortunately go on hiatus during the winter months. Using Facebook or Twitter is a natural way to keep the conversation going year-round, and to keep learning and building trust between the farmer and his\her customers. It’s also a great and timely way to spread word of mouth about their offerings and availability throughout the growing season
I’m presenting at a social media workshop — Planting Seeds for Business Growth – Tuesday, March 29th and it’s sponsored by the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation and will be held at the McHenry County Farm Bureau (1102 McConnell Road, Woodstock, IL 60098). If you patronize farms or farmers markets, please spread the word to any farmers you may know. I have more details below. Thanks much. Michelle
Farmers and farm-based businesses will learn how they can deploy free social media tools to market their businesses, generate valuable word-of-mouth, attract new customers, strengthen current relationships, drive website traffic and support agri-tourism and the local economy. They’ll also learn about farms that already use Facebook, YouTube and other networks to connect with customers.
Social media evangelists Marla Pendergrast and Michelle Damico will make an informative and engaging presentation to demonstrate how using free social media tools can lead to real business results. Marla and Michelle have developed the highly successful digital properties for Twin Garden Farms and other local businesses. They will share their experiences and discuss which social media tools are right for you.
We will also discuss how interactive online communication, including Web sites, social media marketing, and video can help County farmers and farm businesses develop trade opportunities and open new markets.
Reserve tickets through the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation.