There are several people who blog about agriculture, the issues happening on their farms and ranches, rural life, and informing consumers about the industry. Wanda Patsche is one such person, who for the past six years, authors the blog and a Facebook page titled “Minnesota Farm Living.”
Patsche initially started with a Facebook page in 2012 when it was not common for farmers to do so and started the page as a necessity.
“I’m starting to read information of things that are not true and what farmers are doing, and I knew for a fact they weren’t true, and I thought I should really talk about this,” said Patsche. “I’m just this Grandma farmer out in the middle of nowhere, who’s going to want to read what I have to say?”
The answer to that question comes through while talking with Patsche; there is an impression of an inquisitive go-getter. Prior to marrying her husband of 40+ years, she asked him why they plowed the fields and how much he made. To which he replied, “it depends.” They purchased their farm located in South-Central Minnesota in Martin County, 10 miles from the Iowa border. They have been farming for 40 years. They raise hogs, about 1600 a year, and farm about 1000 acres of corn and soybeans. Nearly half of the crops go towards the hogs, and the rest of the corn goes to a local ethanol plant and soybeans for processing. For the first 20 years, Wanda worked in town in IT for a local scale manufacturing company.
Her knowledge of IT helped with the development of her Facebook page and subsequently her blog and the promotion to over 12 thousand followers on Facebook. Patsche’s goal is to show what modern farming is like and to bridge the disconnect between farmers and consumers.
“I write to the consumer, who I think about all the time,” said Patsche. She continues, “That I feel is our biggest challenge in agriculture is getting outside of our tribe.”
While posting on her Facebook page, she had the idea of starting a blog but had “an internal dialogue” about doing it as she didn’t have a background in communications or journalism. Despite that hurdle, Patsche attended AgChat conferences with other bloggers and learned what they were doing and was inspired to start her blog six years ago. She has over a million views on her blog and the opportunity to connect with consumers and answering questions that they have.
When consumers have questions, Patsche will first look at what it is being said and tries to engage them in a conversation. If it is a negative comment, she attempts to have a conversation and views it as a challenge of “how can I take this negative comment, turn it around, and look for some common ground or shared values.” Patsche has experienced success doing that. If someone is extreme, she finds that you are not going to convince them and will leave it like that. There are some topics that are hot-button issues, and she will generally avoid them and has learned what they are through her posts.
Patsche started with blog posts once a week trying to put good content out but has since posted less to be selective on what she posts, so it may be once a month. It depends on what is going on in her farm and agriculture and in her personal life.
When Patsche is not writing, she also participates in Ag in the Classroom and was in the middle of assembling pumpkin kits for children in kindergarten through second grade. In Minnesota, they have a public/private partnership of agriculture groups that present over 400 standardized lessons that teachers can bring into the classroom. A previous lesson Patsche taught was working with a local orchard using the apples to make homemade applesauce and making the connection to the children with a 15-minute lesson. For 5th graders, she made them apple detectives and did an apple tasting for the best one based on aroma, texture, and sweetness. Based on these factors, each student filled out a matrix and tabulated the scores based on the criteria which incorporated math. After the tabulation of scores, Patsche revealed the winning apple variety, and she stated that the students were engaged.
Keeping people engaged in the classroom and on social media seems to be natural for Patsche. She was talking about her work while in the tractor disking fields post-harvest. During the conversation, Patsche told a story about a comment she received she saved on her computer as she states, “this one needs special attention.” On a discussion about fertilizer, a reader told her that she should plant pumpkins in the cornrows. Patsche believes the follower was citing what the Native Americans were doing centuries ago.
“All I can do is envision going down the rows with the combine, and there are all these pumpkins all over,” said Patsche.
Patsche also has three daughters; all are married. No one has expressed interest in the farm. Their youngest was just married a couple months ago, and she did marry a farmer, but they live about 45 miles away. She also has five grandchildren ages ranging from age 3 to 11.