Happy Birthday, RuralEngagement.org! We Are Stronger Than Ever

by | Apr 21, 2017

I am writing this post from a kitchen table in a farmhouse in Iowa. Across the table from me is Hikaru, working on a manuscript, and Lauri, wrapping up grant proposal themes. It’s writing retreat time for our team. Since Hikaru works for the University of Minnesota and Lauri and I work for Kansas State University, we’ve begun having these writing retreats about twice a year. We try to meet somewhere in the middle (Iowa, often) and block out a few days to reconnect with each other and focus on tasks related to our Center work.

The work of the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement as well as our learning resource, RuralEngagement.org, is to strengthen and empower small agricultural business operators to navigate the fast-paced world of new-media marketing. We share that information through research, our New-Media Marketing Bootcamp, Facebook, and this blog. This month we have been celebrating our team and the work that we do together. If life is all about relationships (and it is), then we have some of the best relationships around. Our students are like family, and we really, really enjoy working toward common goals together.

What are our common goals? Easy: Teaching, Research, and Extension. Often mixed together in good measure!

Teaching: Lauri teaches a course called “New Media Technologies,” as well as a course on undergraduate research in agricultural communications (among several courses she teaches). Just last week we took a group of these students to several garden centers in Manhattan to try out our 360-degree video camera. More on that soon. We also have two amazing undergraduate interns: Anissa Zagonel and Mikhayla DeMott who assist with blog content, content curation and other random things that we or our Interim Managing Director, Courtney Boman, needs.

Research: At our last writing retreat we focused on writing journal articles for research (both graduate and undergraduate) from the last few years. This year, two of our papers have been published (below) and we are finishing up edits and final preparation for two more.

  • Stebner, S., L.M. Baker, H.H. Peterson, and C.R. Boyer. 2017. Marketing with more: An in-depth look at relationship marketing with new media in the green industry. Journal of Applied Communications (In Press).
  • Stebner, S., C.R. Boyer, L.M. Baker, H.H. Peterson. 2017. Relationship marketing: A qualitative case study of new-media marketing use by Kansas garden centers. Horticulturae 3(1), 26; doi:10.3390/horticulturae3010026.

Yesterday, we spent the entire day talking, planning, and brainstorming our way through three grant proposals. One is teaching-related (again, more on that in the future) and two others are integrated research/extension projects. It was super fun to have a late-night light bulb moment to address reviewer concerns on one of the proposals we are revising. It was quite the animated (and loud!) discussion–I took notes as fast as I could! We brought along Lawson, Lauri’s 8 month-old son, who was fascinated by our sudden change in demeanor, especially Hikaru’s excited hand movements. It was good–those moments are the best!

Extension: RuralEngagement.org, Facebook, and our New-Media Marketing Bootcamp are the primary ways we reach y’all with all the cool stuff to help you tell your agricultural business story. We’ve already been working on the next New-Media Marketing Bootcamp–Lauri is teaching a “special topics” course on Strategic Event Planning with several of our undergraduate students and they have been learning the ins-and-outs of budgets, hotels, catering, etc. In fact, you are the first to know that we’ve booked the Bluemont Hotel (near Aggieville in Manhattan, Kansas–The Little Apple) on February 27-28, 2018 for the New-Media Marketing Bootcamp. Save the date!

In summary, we are going strong and excited to continue moving forward toward our next birthday (and the next!). We love helping people create better lives and better livelihoods for themselves through their agricultural businesses. Whatever form that takes–from social media and other new-media marketing tools to e-commerce and analytics to storytelling and website development–we are ready to lead the way!