Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Obesity and The Last Supper

Could the key to American obesity be found in artists' renderings of the Last Supper? Some scholars think so.

From the American Farm Bureau Federation:

Looking at the 52 paintings of The Last Supper, the meal entrees gradually grew by about 70 percent and the bread by 23 percent. Furthermore, the size of the apostles’ plates increased by nearly 66 percent.

While some critics blame modern farming and the advent of take-out food in the last 40 years for America’s fat problem, the authors instead suggest it's a natural consequence of “dramatic socio-historic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food” that started more than 1,000 years ago.

Writer Tracy Taylor Grondine continues:

One can argue that food portions have grown significantly over the last 20 years. Take movie popcorn for example. Twenty years ago the average size of the theater treat was five cups, equal to 270 calories. Today, movie goers instead typically buy a tub that weighs in at 630 calories.

The super size trend continues in everything from bagels to burgers to pasta dishes to desserts. What used to be considered an extra large soda is now deemed a medium. Unfortunately, America’s waistbands have reacted accordingly. Approximately 65 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.

According to the article, your hamburger should be the size of a deck of cards, a slice of bread the size of a cassette tape, a baked potato the size of a computer mouse, and a portion of pasta the size of a tennis ball. To me, that sounds like a serious diet during Lent.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reporter declares independence with his own blog

One of Blogriculture's contributors is setting up a blog at a new address.

Tim Hearden, a Capital Press reporter based in Northern California, is launching a new blog this week he calls the Jefferson Journal. As Tim describes it, "the Jefferson Journal, invokes both the name and spirit of the mythical State of Jefferson, a huge expanse of rural Northern California and Southern Oregon that briefly sought its own statehood in the early 1940s. Folks in these parts still have an independent state of mind."

If you've spent any time in the border area around where Oregon and California meet, you no doubt know that the Jefferson spirit is still very much alive and well. Residents of that area feel more connected to the interests of their cross border brethren than they do their respective state capitals.

Tim intends to tap into that deeply ingrained sense of independence and write on politics and other topics unique to the farmers and ranchers in that state, which may not exists on a map, but it definitely exists in the hearts and minds of those who live and work there. For some, the dream of a separate state of Jefferson still exists. This Wikipedia listing describes the history of the effort to form a 51st state and includes links to a variety of Websites that still carry on the banner of independence.

To Tim is declaring his independence and breaking away from Blogriculture. We hope he comes to pay us a visit from time to time. But we also encourage you to check out the Jefferson Journal and see what's happening over there too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Celebrating an Ag Week anniversary

Four years ago today, on March 15, 2006, we started this little Blogriculture experiment. If you look back at the blog post for that day, you can tell I wasn't really sure what might become of it. The headline on the post speaks volumes: "A trial transplanting of Blogriculture".

I guess I can now, four years later, say that the trial part is over. Blogriculture has endured for nearly half a decade. If success were to be measured in number of posts, 2007 was our best year with 256 posts. Our least prolific year was 2008, with 113 posts. So far in 2010, this is only our third post. If that pace continues, this could become our least productive year.

Anniversaries are a nice opportunity for reflection. There are many good things that we have enjoyed from that first tentative step into the blogosphere for a farm publication. Most importantly it put us in touch with a lot of great people. Through Blogriculture we got to know Marianne Friers and her Northview Dairy blog. That contact spread to our expansion onto Facebook.

I was having a conversation with Tim Hearden, one of our reporters and Blogriculture contributors, about what might be the next phase of Capital Press blogging. Tim, who had his own blog through a previous employer, would like to get more active in blogging again. However, that may be in a venue other than the Blogriculture blog. I hope he does share more of his unique perspective in a blogging forum.

It seems we, in ag media, are a few years behind our journalistic peers in mainstream media in getting actively involved in online efforts. I believe this is because of the differing demographics between readers of ag media and mainstream media. Ag media's readers are older than mainstream media readers because farmers and ranchers, in general, are older than the general population. People working in agriculture have been slower to adopt use of computers and Internet in their daily working and personal lives, too. But that adoption has begun and is taking hold rapidly.

Media, including ag media, will need to go where their readers are seeking information. Increasingly, the places people go to get answers to their questions about what's new are digital media. That's unsettling for people in print-based media because we have to learn a lot of new things that take us out of our comfort zone. We are comfortable talking about things like circulation and column inches. But talking about pixels, bandwidth and unique visitors is sort of like trying to learn a new language in adulthood. No one wants to toss away what they have spent years developing expertise in to go back to the beginning of the learning curve. And it's also very different going from working with a once-a-week deadline to functioning in a world where there's a deadline every minute of every day. It's scary stuff.

But there are generations of young people who learned to use a computer mouse and a keyboard before they learned to write. For them, this stuff is not new. It's what's normal. It's what has always been. Those are the ranks from which the farming, ranching and agribusiness jobs of today, and tomorrow, are increasingly being filled.

So, the trial transplanting of Blogriculture is over. It's here, and hopefully here to stay. Certainly the Capital Press' efforts to reach readers interested in agriculture in the digital realm will not go away, regardless of whether Blogriculture lasts another 4 hours, 4 days, 4 years or 4 decades. As long as there is a Capital Press there will need to be digital components to reaching people.

And now, we have a lot more allies, and competitors, in using digital tools to reach people. Here's to hoping Blogriculture has many more anniversaries to celebrate. And most importantly, here to National Ag Week and celebrating all of those who produce the food and fiber we all need every day in America and around the world. Never has the message of American agriculture been more important to share with people who now live and work far from the family farm.

Happy National Ag Week.

Gary L. West
Associate editor
Capital Press

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Commodity prices find a home at capitalpress.com

I took the commodity price charts off the Blogriculture site. We now feature the same price information on the main capitalpress.com website, in expanded versions that show a graph of the price trend for your commodity of choice.

We started out with the market prices here, in part, because on our old website software made it more difficult to add that type of information and the in our old layout there really wasn't a good place to put the charts. But now that the information has a home on our main news site, it seemed less important to have them here. Now I'm thinking perhaps we need to ad small versions of those charts to our mobile website next.

Perhaps we will use the freed-up real estate here to try out some other widget or feature to determine if we want to use it on our main site or mobile.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Web development continues at Capital Press

Shortly after I came to work at the Capital Press in June 2005, I became involved with working on our Web site. Not long after that, this blog was started.

This became a place for testing ideas, experimenting with things that we could not do on our main Web site, and getting comfortable with my new role as an ag journalist.

Late last summer, when the Capital Press website was relaunched with new software, the new Web site became to focus of our Web development.

It is sadly ironic that as agricultural involvement in online tools, like blogging, has exploded within the last few month, the Blogriculture blog has sat fallow. I don't know what the future of the blog will be. While I have been the most active user/poster on this site, it was never intended to be a one-person operation. Maybe this fertile ground is merely resting for a future season.

There is no doubt that this site has been the most important digital contributor to the growth of our other Web offerings, which have expanded to include Facebook, Twitter and now, a mobile Web site.

It's that mobile Web site which has gotten much of my attention in recent days. There is still much work to do there. But I am a firm believer that mobile access is the next digital frontier for agriculture users who need information, whether in the office or on the go. Even those farmers who have been slow to embrace computers and website rely on their cell phones as a lifeline to the people they do business with on a daily basis. The phone is already a key tool for them, whether tucked in a shirt pocket or clipped to a belt.

Here at the Capital Press, we can already deliver information to your mobile phone via mobile apps that can access our Twitter and Facebook posts, mobile web browsers that can view our main Web site and now through our mobile-enabled website, which you can find at m.capitalpress.com, or www.capitalpress.com/mobile/, depending on your phone's browser.

Another way this blog has been important to us at the Capital Press, is that it has been a place where people have commented on our posts and provided feedback to us that we have used to shape our efforts. So, please, tell us what you want and need in the form of information delivered to you, wherever you are -- whether the method of delivery is a printed newspaper, one of our family of computer Web sites, or a mobile Web site or apps that provide particular types of data.

We still have much to learn in this never-ending journey. But we won't know what you need if you don't tell us. Feel free to comment here, in one of the forums on capitalpress.com or by e-mail.

Gary L. West
Associate editor
Capital Press

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