Posted by: Kristy on July 20, 2015

Posted in: Newsletter, Updates

Advancing the Art and Science of Public Relations in Agriculture

Daren Williams HeadshotBy Daren Williams

ARC Board President


When the Founders of ARC sat in the lobby of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago in the fall of 1953, they saw a growing need to communicate within and about agriculture. Perhaps they saw the increasing divide between those who produce food and fiber and those who consume those products. Maybe they foresaw the rapid advancement of technology in agriculture and figured someone would have to explain the benefits of these innovations to farmers and ranchers, or maybe they were just excited to learn there were others doing what they were doing and desired to exchange ideas and learn from each other. My sense from having met several of those pioneers in agricultural public relations at ARC meetings in the late 1980s and early ‘90s was that it was a combination of these factors that led to the formation of ARC that day.

In the weeks since I took over the presidency of ARC I have had some time to reflect on what this organization means to me – both personally and professionally – and what needs to happen in the next couple of years to ensure the legacy of the ARC Founders is passed on to future generations of agricultural public relations professionals. Their vision is captured in the first lines of our bylaws: “To promote the common good through the advancement of the art and science of public relations in agriculture.”

When I think of promoting the common good today I think about the daunting challenge of feeding a growing world population, estimated to reach nine billion by 2050, with finite natural resources. To meet that challenge we must responsibly use new technology to produce more with less. To fully utilize new technology we must earn the social license – trust – needed for consumer acceptance. To earn trust we must ensure farmers and ranchers understand the implications of the use (or misuse) of new technology. To achieve these goals we must have better communication within the agricultural community and, ultimately, with consumers.

10342777_10153447460939283_6621518637575321831_nAs Cameron Bruett of JBS said during our annual meeting tour stop at the global headquarters of the world’s largest animal protein supplier (and I paraphrase), if we were doing our job he wouldn’t have such a hard time trying to explain things like “sustainability” to consumers. After I got over feeling defensive I realized he was right. We need to do a better job explaining how we produce food today and why everyone who eats should care. That’s our job. The hungry people of the world, including many within our own borders, depend on us.

That’s where ARC comes in. By gathering once a year in person, several times a year via webinars, and whenever the mood strikes us on the ARC Facebook page, we can share best practices to help each other advance the art and science of public relations within agriculture. The better we are, collectively, at communicating with farmers, ranchers and consumers, the more we advance the common good (our ability to feed a growing world population).

Following this line of thinking led me to three SMART ARC goals for the following year:

  • Increase membership in ARC by 20%, from 100 professional members to 120 professional members by June 2016. Why? So more practitioners have the opportunity to improve their skills. And we are excited about all our ACT student chapter and national officers who are members of ARC as well. That brings our membership to 130 and beyond already.
  • Increase participation in ARC webinars by 10% in the coming year. Why? To increase opportunities from ARC members to learn from each other.
  • Increase the number of entries in the Golden ARC Awards contest from 58 to 70 in 2016. Why? Because steel sharpens steel (and who doesn’t like to receive awards?)!

I believe each of these goals are relevant to our Founders’ call “to promote the common good through the advancement of the art and science of public relations in agriculture” but we need grassroots member support to achieve them. So here is my challenge:

  • I challenge every member to contact one fellow public relations professional and invite them to join ARC,
  • I challenge every member to commit to participating in one ARC webinar, and
  • I challenge every member to submit at least one entry in the 2016 Golden ARC Awards.

As my fellow board members can attest, I do not throw down a challenge without first challenging myself. This past year I recruited five new members, participated in two webinars (one as a presenter) and submitted three Golden ARC entries. This year I commit to one more of each! So who’s with me?

Daren R. Williams, ARC President
Senior Executive Director, Communications
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association


ARC Trivia

What year was ARC founded?





In what city?

Washington, D.C.



Kansas City


In the lobby of which historic hotel?

The Willard

The Brown

The Knickerbocker

The Rafael


Why was ARC founded?

To promote the profession of public relations in agriculture.

To promote the advancement of technology in agriculture through the art and science of public relations.

To promote the common good through the advancement of the art and science of public relations in agriculture.


(See answers at the end of the newsletter.)


Getting an ARC High in Colorado

Den Gardner HeadshotBy Den Gardner

Executive Director




Editors Note: Sung to the tune of “Rocky Mountain High”

ARC was born in the summer of its 62nd year

Coming home to a place they’d never been before

They left yesterday behind them, you might say they were born again

You might say they found a key for every door


When they first came to in Denver, ARC was far away

On the road and hanging by a toke

But the cell phones all are broken and they really don’t want to care

They keep changing fast and folks that ain’t no joke


But the Colorado Rocky Mountain highARC Group Photo (2)

We’ve seen it raining fire in the sky

The shadow from our laptops is softer than a lullabye

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado


They toured the Hops and Brewery Farm, saw silver clouds below

Saw everything as far as you can see

And they say that they got crazy on a marijuana farm

Got high, but kept those memories


Now they dream in quiet solitude, the writing and the streams

of copy published in every step they take

Their sights set on the future and they try to understand

The serenity of a brownie they can makeARC Meeting Logo


And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high

We’ve seen it raining fire in the sky

You can write to all and listen to the casual reply

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado


ARC is full of wonder and its heart still knows no fear

Of a future too high to comprehend

While they try to reach the mountains finding joy at every turn

More people, more strength upon the land


And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high

We’ve seen it raining fire in the sky

Fail to join the winners, you’ll never reach our sky to fly

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado


It’s Colorado Rocky Mountain high

We’ve seen it raining fire in the sky

Friends around the laptop and everybody’s high

Rocky Mountain high, Colorado…


From nearly extinction six years ago, the Ag Relations Council is back – with membership nearing 130, a new scholarship program, a vibrant Golden ARC program, a new inductee into the Ag PR Hall of Fame, and a vision based on improving professional development and camaraderie among ag communicators focusing on public relations.

As nearly 40 participants joined in professional development and tours of unique portions of Colorado agriculture, ARC has also retained the professional intimacy that was always a hallmark. A combination of veteran PR professionals and a new crop of PR practitioners made for a meeting that certainly left everyone with a natural “high.”

Thanks to an excellent program constructed by committee members Daren Williams, Sally Behringer and Mike Opperman. The now half-day extended program included two full days of professional development, tours and a business meeting to round out the program. Add to that the Ag PR Hall of Fame ceremony (Steve Drake inducted) and the Golden ARC award program and the result was a remarkable couple days.

You can see a photo montage of the meeting elsewhere in this newsletter. Check out all the photos here.  But here’s a capsule of the meeting and an update of the organization’s progress and where it’s going in the future.

  • “Rocky Mountain High” marijuana issues panel. Panelists included Ricardo Baca, marijuana editor, The Denver Post/The Cannabist; Heather Link-Bergman, marijuana communications Daren Williams Ricardo Baca Heather Link Bergman Josh Malmanspecialist, Colorado Department of Health and Environment; and Josh Malman, director of cultivation for the Clinic Colorado, a licensed marijuana farm in Denver. With legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado a reality, all participants discussed communications challenges and opportunities to consumers and how the media reports issues throughout the state.
  • Preparing for crisis communications to various publics was the topic of a panel that featured three experts in their field, moderated by Sally Behringer, ARC board member and president of MustangRed Communications. David Eaheart, director of communications and marketing for Seaboard Foods, Chris Galen, senior VP, communications, for the National Milk Producers’ Federation, and Wendy Feik Pinkerton, senior partner, Demeter Communications. Preparation, monitoring and follow-up were key elements of any plan to meet a crisis with precision and effectiveness.Crisis Management Panel David Eaheart
  • The pollinator workshop featured Beth Conrey, owner of Bee Squared Apiaries and president of the Colorado State Beekeepers Association and the Western Apicultural Society. She was joined by Charlie Hicks, field development and technical service representative for Bayer CropScience. Hicks has recently been involved in the development of a new fluency agent used with corn planters to help reduce pollinator exposure to dust at planting time.
  • Can social and digital media be measured inexpensively? This hands-on presentation and Q&A from ARC Board Member John Blue of Truffle Media networks showed attendees free and low cost approaches for measuring social media reach, impression, and ROI. This session focused on: 1) outlining the value of measuring, 2) sharing information on low cost tools for PR professionals, and 3) how to add those tools into client proposals so the measurement process gets paid for.John Blue Presentation
  • The Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame induction of Steve Drake was held Wednesday evening at a nearby restaurant. The award is sponsored by Agri Marketing magazine and managed by the ARC.

A veteran ag communicator and consultant, Drake is a former ARC Founders Award winner and has enjoyed a career in public relations that spans more than three decades. The award recognizes lifetime contributions to public relations and the ARC.

Drake was active for many years in ARC including serving as ARC president in 1996. Steve joins this illustrious group of current Hall of Fame members: Don Lerch, Lyle Orwig, John Harvey, Paul Weller, Richard Howell and Gary Myers.sTEVE dRAKE

See full article elsewhere in the newsletter.

The Thursday tours were again a big hit for members. Stops included:

  • A tour of the JBS Beef Plant, Greeley.
  • A presentation on Global Food Production Issues by Cameron Bruett, head, corporate affairs at JBS USA
  • Lunch at Oskar Blues Home Made Liquids and Solids
  • A tour of the Oskar Blues Hops and Heifers Farm
  • A tour of the Good Chemistry Marijuana Cultivation Facility.

The ARC meeting culminated with the presentation of the 2015 Golden ARC awards. Recipients of this year’s 23 Golden ARC Awards and 18 Merit Awards join an elite group of highly-respected leaders in agricultural public relations in the elite awards program.

For the fourth straight year the Golden ARC de Excellence Award was awarded. The 2015 winner was Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company for the entry entitled “Sugar’s Last Stand – Transforming Urban Legends to Make Hawaiian Sugarcane Sweet Again.” This year’s selected entry was from the Campaigns Division, Organization or Corporate Reputation category. Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company also received a Golden ARC Award for the entry.

For a full list of winners go to

The ARC has accomplished much in the past year. Here’s a roundup of activity by its members and actions members can look for in the months ahead.

  • The 2015-2016 ARC board is:
  • Daren Williams, President
  • Mike Opperman, Past President
  • Rebecca Colnar, First Vice President
  • John Blue, Second Vice President
  • Sally Behringer, Secretary/Treasurer
  • Deron Johnson, Director
  • Amy Keith McDonald, Director
  • Mark Crouser, Director
  • Stephanie Meyers, Director

(Please note: Terms of office as board members are two-years, BUT board members can be re-elected to new two-year terms as often as they would like.) The ARC Foundation Board Lineup for 2015-2016 is the same group. 

  • Revenue for the year will be about $61,000, with expenses about $60,000.
  • Budget goals were met in membership, corporate sponsorships, and annual meeting attendees. There was a budget shortfall in the Golden ARC contest because of a decrease of entries from 2014.
  • The ARC Foundation resurrected its scholarship program in 2015 – providing a $1,500 scholarship for this fall to Katherine Griswold, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There were 23 applications for the scholarship.
  • The foundation will continue to ask for a $15/member donation to the foundation that’s part of membership renewal. There is an opt-out provision provided to members. All members in 2015 chose to contribute to the foundation. The board thanks our membership for this action.
  • And last year’s Hall of Famer Richard Howell challenged members to donate to the foundation with a $500 contribution again this year. Thus far Daren Williams, John Blue and Den Gardner have also announced they will donate to the foundation again.
  • The ARC will continue to collaborate with the Ag Media Summit in conducting the silent auction. This raises more than $3,500 for youth programs.
  • ARC recently held a collaborative webinar on strategic public relations with NAMA.
  • ARC thanks its sponsors. Programming like those provided for this year’s meeting wouldn’t be possible without this support. ARC had its highest number of sponsors and revenue since its re-birth six years ago. See the ARC web site for the list of our current partners.
  • Membership is at about 130, with more than 100 regular members and nearly 30 state Ag Communicators of Tomorrow chapter presidents and national officers in the fold. Those student members are in the organization thanks to a grant from Gardner & Gardner Communications. The goal for the organization is to get to 200 members by 2019.
  • The Golden ARC program had 58 entries – down from last year. Efforts will continue to promote the contest and tweak categories as appropriate. Thanks to McDonald Marketing Communications (Amy and Addie), plus Bob Giblin for assistance. A PRSA chapter judges the entries each year.
  • The ARC meeting will be in downtown St. Paul in 2016 – June 21-23 – at the Intercontinental Hotel. Sacramento is the location for 2017.
  • ARC conducted two webinars thus far in 2015, with two more scheduled for the remainder of the year. Thanks to John Blue for his excellent work in scheduling these webinars.
  • Bob Giblin will focus on accreditation through PRSA in the coming months. If you as a member are interested in this process, please contact the ARC office at for more information. It is hopeful the program will get off the ground this fall. The ARC board has determined that if steps aren’t taken by ARC and PRSA in the next year to enlist members into the accreditation process, ARC will discontinue its formal relationship with the organization.
  • ARC is investigating archiving its historical materials at the University of Illinois. Efforts will be undertaken to further investigate this opportunity in 2015-2016.


Drake Named to 2015 Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame

Veteran ag communicator and consultant Steve Drake has been named as the new recipient to the Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame. Drake was inducted at the ARC annual meeting Denver. He was joined by his wife Barb. The program, sponsored by Agri Marketing magazine and managed by the Ag Relations Council (ARC), recognizes lifetime contributions to public relations and the ARC. Steve is also a former ARC Founders Award winner and has enjoyed a career in public relations that spans more than three decades.Hugh Whaley Steve Drake Lynn Henderson

The presentation was directed by long-time ARC member Hugh Whaley, now director of corporate relations for the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Wheat Foundation. Whaley nominated Drake for the award. The award ceremony also featured a video of congratulations from many of Steve’s colleagues from his former company – Drake & Company.

After a career as an Associated Press news reporter and 10 years in college public relations, Drake entered ag PR in 1978 with the American Soybean Association (ASA).

After ASA, Drake formed and grew Drake & Company, focusing on association management through a multitude of clients, mostly in agriculture. Some of his many career highlights included:

  • Developing a PR team at the American Soybean Association and winning a PRSA Silver Anvil in the process
  • Transitioning Soybean Digest magazine to a commercial magazines from a house organ
  • Working to coordinate Monsanto’s flood relief preprogram, generating $3+ million to rural families during the great flood of 1993. He won a Silver Anvil for this work.
  • Expanding and growing the National Christmas Tree Association through such efforts as the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and the Trees for Troops program. This program alone has touched 122,000 military families with free Christmas trees.
  • Worked with leaders of the AAEA, LPC and the Agricultural Publishers Association (APA) to create the Ag Media Summit (AMS). Today the AMS is the premier annual professional development conference for hundreds of ag communicators.

Ken Bader, former CEO of ASA and president, Global Agribusiness, says this about Steve: “His imaginative and effective public relations efforts are deserving of this national acclaim and recognition. I have known Steve for over 40 years when he was responsible for all public relations activities as well as serving as my ‘second in command.’ He is a superb and innovative public relations expert.”

Irwin Loiterstein, representing the National Christmas Tree Association, notes that Steve’s work in public relations for the association resulted in increased membership and sales of Christmas Steve and Barb Draketrees. The nationally-recognized Trees for Troops program, started in 2006, is still going strong. “Steve and his staff were the glue that kept us together,” Loiterstein says.

Drake was active for many years in ARC including serving as ARC President in 1996. He reminisced about his days an an ag PR professional. “I accept this honor on behalf of all those dedicated professionals I had the privilege of leading as well as supportive organizational leaders who gave me the resources to implement effective public relations efforts.  ARC members have been one of my important industry networks so receiving this recognition from ARC is very special,” he says.

ARC Executive Director Den Gardner adds that he’s worked with Drake for more than two decades. “He is a true professional in the public relations business and understands the complexities of strategic PR and all the elements necessary to get the message out to the benefit of the organization. This honor is well-deserved.”

Steve is currently president and owner of SCD Group, Inc. and editor of the SCDdaily blog.  His firm  provides advice to associations and nonprofits regarding marketing and strategic visioning and he works with associations and for-profit companies on generational issues.

Steve joins this illustrious group of current Hall of Fame members: Don Lerch, Lyle Orwig, John Harvey, Paul Weller, Richard Howell and Gary Myers.

Read Steve’s “14 Tops from a PR Hall of Famer”


2015 Golden ARC Awards Program a Success

Amy and AdelitaBy Amy McDonald & Adelita Tyson

Golden ARC Program Managers

The 2015 Golden ARC Awards Contest winners were announced in late June at the close of the annual Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) meeting in Denver, CO. This year’s recipients included some well-known agencies and companies, as well as some newcomers to the contest. The 23 Golden ARC and 18 Merit Award winners will join an elite group of highly-respected leaders in the agricultural public relations circle.

This year’s standout newcomer to the contest was Hilary Bingman with Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company. Her two campaigns entries won in each of their respected categories: Organization or Corporate Reputation; and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability. Furthermore, her Organization or Corporate Reputation entry “Sugar’s Last Stand –  Transforming Urban Legends to Make Hawaiian Sugarcane Sweet Again” won for best all-around campaigns entry receiving the Golden ARC de Excellence Award.

Agency Osborn Barr took home the most awards of the night with seven total, including five Golden ARC Awards and two Merits. Their awards were received on behalf of work done for clients United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service, Verdesian Life Sciences, United Soybean Board and the Monsanto Advocacy Team.

On the client side, Verdesian Life Sciences received the largest quantity of Golden ARC Awards winning three Golden ARC Awards, recognizing work submitted by agencies Osborn Barr and Broadhead.

Broadhead tied for the most Golden ARC Awards with Osborn Barr, capturing a total of five trophies on behalf of clients USDA, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Minnesota Pork Board, AGCO Corporation, Verdesian Life Sciences and

FLM+ came in second place for the most awards of the night with a total of six awards, including two Golden ARC Awards and four Merit awards. The agency received awards on behalf of clients National Association of Wheat Growers, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Illinois Soybean Association, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, and FMC.

Two agencies tied for three awards each, including one Golden ARC Award and two Merits. Bringing home the honors were AdFarm and G&S Business Communications. California FFA and Elanco Animal Health were represented by AdFarm; while G&S Communications accepted their recognition on behalf of Syngenta.

Many organizations collected two prizes each including this year’s Golden ARC de Excellence winner the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company and Rabo AgriFinance with two Golden ARC Awards each. David & Associates, GROWMARK, Inc., Ketchum, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association all were each awarded one Golden ARC and one Merit award; while the American Farm Bureau won two Merit awards.

Other award winners were CropLife America, winning one Golden ARC Award, and Lessing Flynn and Paradowski collecting one Merit award each.

This competition is unique because it is judged by public relations professionals who do not work within agriculture which makes their perspective that much more valuable to the contestants. The judges this year were members of the Sunshine District Public Relations Society of America and focused on a number of objectives including audience analysis, creativity, execution and campaign results, especially measurability, contest managers noted.

“The quality of this year’s entries again surpassed previous years’ submissions, and judges provided valuable comments and critiques for each submission to enable entrants to continue to improve their craft,” said Den Gardner, executive director of ARC. “The presence of most Golden ARC Award winners at the annual meeting banquet indicates the respect ARC members hold for the competition.”

Originated in 1990, the Golden ARC Awards Contest recognizes the best and brightest in agricultural public relations, and is open to both ARC and non-ARC members. This year’s 46 categories reflected a broad scope of contemporary public relations activities. The format and requirements for the Golden ARC awards are similar to other leading public relations awards programs, based on best practices for public relations campaigns and tactics.

More information and a complete list of winners is available at or at the ARC website,


Last chance to donate to the AMS/ARC Silent Auction

AMS LOGOTech gadgets. Trips. Sports. Local fare. Handmade jewelry. Artwork.

Ag Media Summit (AMS) is partnering with the Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) on the 2015 silent auction to raise funds for youth ag communications programs. Each year the auction raises between $4,500 and $5,000 that is used for student programming and activities at AMS and student scholarships through ARC.

You can download a donation form (PDF) or (PDF Form) and donate today.  Take a peek at the 2015 auction catalog and get some ideas for great auction items.

If you have any questions regarding making a donation, don’t hesitate to reach out to Barb Ulschmid at or 952-758-5811.


ARC Membership Update

ARC membership currently stands at 100 paid members, which was the goal for 2015. The new membership committee, which includes ARC President Daren Williams and board members Deron Johnson and Stephanie Meyers, has an aggressive goal to grow membership by 20% in the coming year. More members means more opportunities to network and learn from each other. The committee is looking for volunteers with strong people skills to join in the effort! Please contact Daren at or 303-850-3346 if you would like to help.


The Strategic Importance of PR

By: John Blue , ARC Board Member

Public Relations Important? – Public Relations is much more than writing and distributing news releases or pitching the media. PR professionals today are strategists, event planners, social media experts, and at times, media buyers.

In the NAMA / ARC Webinar held recently, Melissa Dohmen, Senior Public Relations Counsel at Swanson Russell, shared background on the evolving role of PR beyond “earned” media and provided guidance on understanding how a PR strategy can help your organization meet its business goals.Melissa Dohmen

Ms. Dohmen also covered how you can spur media coverage without a press release or a new product, and wrapped up with information on how to measure and evaluate the success of PR programs.

Coming up for next half of 2015: We have two more webinars for 2015 to deliver. One of them will be “How do you develop a winning entry for a media, marketing, or PR award program” and the other webinar topic is still being developed.

FYI: Earlier this year ARC hosted two webinars that are still available to all ARC members as part of your membership.

Password: ARCBeef7827

Password: ARCWater7827


ARC needs an Accreditation chair

ARC needs an Accredited PR practitioner to take over as chairperson for accreditation.  The role involves recruiting APR candidates within ARC, helping guide them through the registration and exam process, mentoring, and helping to arrange readiness reviews.  The chair must currently hold Accreditation (APR) through any of the partner organizations.

In the meantime, any ARC member who is interested in pursuing Accreditation should contact Bob Giblin, either by phone (920-397-6408) or email:  Until ARC has a new chair, Bob will assist with information for registration, and help to identify either a Public Relations Society of America or Accreditation partner organization that can assist with information about preparing for the exam, and with the readiness review process.



Summer Calendar of Events

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 July 27-28, 2015

ARC/AMS Silent Auction

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, Scottsdale, AZ


June 22-25, 2016

ARC Annual Meeting

Intercontinental Hotel, St. Paul-Riverfront

St. Paul, Minnesota



New ARC Members

ARC welcomes the following new members:

Carly Barnes, Ketchum
Karen Bernick, Karen Bernick Marketing Communications
Sally Credille, Osborn Barr
David Eaheart, Seaboard Foods
Brandi Buzzard Frobose, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Joe Hansen, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Amy Hennessey, APR, Ulupono Initiative
Sarah Laborde, Fleishman Hillard
Kevin Waetke, National Pork Board


ARC Trivia Answers:

What year was ARC founded?



In what city?



In the lobby of which historic hotel?

The Knickerbocker


Why was ARC founded?

To promote the common good through the advancement of the art and science of public relations in agriculture.


Hope you get them all correct!  Let’s keep the founding promise alive!


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