Some Takeaways From Ag Catalyst

So, you read the title and you’re still going. I respect you for that. 

I know for someone not at a conference, reading somebody’s thoughts on that conference can be the equivalent of watching paint dry. 

We get it. You were inspired. You learned about the here and now.

Then the reader clicks the x on the tab and they go back to a Buzzfeed list of 9 Cats Who Definitely Relate To Paul Rudd After The Royals Win.

So, if you’re still going, thanks! I attended Ag Catalyst in Minneapolis this week, put on by the generous minds at AdFarm. For 2014, the agriculture communications/social media conference was entirely focused on content. Building content, monitoring content, creating content that works.

A sports man by passion (and now by trade), I came into agriculture accidentally, on the guidance of a wise PR instructor who thought I would be a good fit at the Canola Council of Canada. In the year I spent there and the two months I’ve now been at Canadian Canola Growers Association, I can say, without a doubt, that is absolutely the best time to be a social media addict working in the agriculture industry.

In my work, we spend a lot of time talking to farmers - a group that only got on the Twitter train recently. Everyone and their Mom is on Facebook (maybe more Moms than Everyone, today), but the farmers demographic didn’t actually start using that platform to interact with brands until very recently. It’s like walking into a big classroom with a clean chalkboard. The possibilities are endless.

So we spent two days talking about content that works. We talked about the importance of proactive messaging in an industry filled with critics. We psyched ourselves up to be open and transparent. We started discussion on how monitoring can help adjust your message and “voice” over time. We talked about making great ~*~stuff~*~ shareable (look at me! posting great ~*~stuff~*~ on Tumblr and sharing via Twitter). We talked about DiGiorno Pizza, McDonalds, Lara Bars, Lucky Charms and a bunch of other stuff I have a burning craving for now. We mused on regional accents.

I won’t bore you with the details, but easily the most valuable aspect of the conference is it made me realize how important my job can be. In a world where it’s impossible to care about everything, almost everyone cares about food.

Educating people on where it comes from, getting them to care about farmers and providing real, unfiltered information on what happens on a farm - these are challenges to be faced head-on with social media.

Now it’s time to get on a plane and get back to work.

Run The Jewels’ debut LP was anchored by a Big Boi guest appearance on the bouncing “Banana Clipper, as he put a slow burn, ATL-repping verse under a lively El-P beat to great effect.

Hearing the brand new “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”, though, with a similar earworm beat and a hammering bass track, you might think Zack De La Rocha was meant to be on “Banana Clipper” all along.

De La Rocha doesn’t do slow burn, and not only contributes the hook but also a furious rap verse - his message as incendiary as ever, yet altogether modern in the context of rap. Rage Against The Machine wouldn’t have as many ears to scream at these days, rap rock watered down their music and left it to burn 15 years ago. Here, on the new RTJ track, De La Rocha puts his style right where it fits in 2014 - over blistering, in-your-face rap.

I haven’t seen a music video this good for a long time. The message is timely and brave, the choreography is riveting, the camera work is unbelievable.

And Kendrick Lamar, man. There’s a very short list of rappers that can own a FlyLo beat, and an even shorter list with the musical IQ to try. But Kendrick plays with his tempo and delivers, in the context of R&B experimentation, what might be his best feature verse to date.

UPDATE: More FlyLo visuals await at his website, where the new LP You’re Dead! is live-streaming for 24 hours.

A big key to the musical success of Wonder Where We Land, the new LP from SBTRKT, is its craftsmanship. The middle portion shines like a climax should; it’s packed with hooks, with each coming at you differently. ”Temporary View” is a breezy, danceable standout, but it doubles as a partner for the track following - the sensational Ezra Koenig-featured staccato of “NEW DORP. NEW YORK.”

Full appreciation for SBTRKT will come when this album finally drops and you can listen to it front to back. It’s paced and ordered near-perfectly, able to marry five separate vocal tracks from Sampha with seven other guests (including a weirdly impressive singing A$AP Ferg) without getting stale.

For now, I’ve got “Temporary View” on repeat.