Littr(ing) the Poultry Industry with Innovation with Holly Porter, Delmarva Chicken Association

LISTEN TO Holly's EPISODE HERE OR FIND US ON YOUR FAVORITE PODCAST LISTENING APP!
 

 

Show Notes

Holly Porter Executive Director Delmarva Chicken Association

Summary

In this episode of the Farm Credit AgVocates podcast, we interview Holly Porter, the executive director of the Delmarva Chicken Association to learn about their new branding and Littr mobile app. You’ll learn where Holly got her start in the agriculture industry and how the organization’s name transitioned from Delmarva Poultry Industry to the Delmarva Chicken Association.

Check out the Delmarva Chicken Association at dcachicken.com and the Littr app at littr.io.

Rebranding Effort:

delmarva chicken association rebranding from delmarva poultry industry

Links

Delmarva Chicken Association (Formerly Delmarva Poultry Industry)

Littr app

Phosphorus Management Tool Regulations (PMT)

Maryland Grain Producers

Delmarva Land and Litter Collaborative

LEAD Maryland

LEAD Delaware

Delaware Department of Agriculture

Valor Program of Virginia

Integrators

Allen Harim

Amick Farms

Mountaire

Perdue Farms

Tyson Foods

Transcript

Katie Ward:

Welcome to the Farm Credit AgVocates podcast. I'm your host, Katie Ward, a Marketing Specialist here at MidAtlantic Farm Credit. I'm thrilled to introduce our guest on the podcast today. Holly Porter, the Executive Director for the Delmarva Chicken Association. I've had the pleasure of working with Holly the past few years on partnerships in the agriculture industry in the MidAtlantic region. Holly is also a familiar face at Farm Credit, as she was previously a Marketing Specialist here for 12 years. She also has served as a Marketing Specialist and as the Deputy Principal Assistant at the Delaware Department of Agriculture prior to joining the Delmarva Chicken Association. Recently in her role as Executive Director, Holly led the Delmarva Chicken Association, or as we'll often refer to it today as DCA, through a rebranding and rollout complete with a new name and logo. I'm honored to have Holly hang out with us for a little bit today to talk about the rebranding process and the poultry industry on Delmarva.

As a fellow marketer, I'm sure we're going to have a lot of exciting things to talk about. So without further ado, welcome to the podcast, Holly.

Holly Porter

Thanks, Katie. I really appreciate being here and really excited to be back working with Farm Credit. I had the pleasure of sitting in your role so many years ago and enjoyed every minute of it. Farm Credit is a wonderful organization. I have many, many friends still with Farm Credit.

Katie Ward:

So aside from the brief intro that I gave, is there anything else that you want to tell our listeners about yourself before we dive into the big discussion?

Holly Porter:

As said, I worked at MidAtlantic Farm Credit for 12 years and I think that it's fitting when we talk about advocates because when I started at Farm Credit, I'm not sure that I really recognized my love and my passion for Ag as much as I do now. All of that really starts because at the end of the day, I'm a farmer's daughter. My dad is still a part-time grain farmer here in Caroline County, where I was born and raised. I think that to be an advocate, sometimes having that background and that passion is really what has been so important to me in my role and the different roles that I've had as well.  I've enjoyed many of the leadership opportunities that I've had, many of them starting when I was at Farm Credit and my opportunity to partake in the LEAD Maryland program, which was really career changing for me in a lot of ways. Then when I was at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, I was actually able to lead their LEAD Delaware program. I was a participant in Maryland and one of the Assistant Directors at LEAD Delaware, so there's definitely a lot of synergy and a lot of back and forth when you work within the Ag community, especially here on Delmarva. Those have been really career changing opportunities for me I think.

Katie Ward:

We've interviewed quite a few people on the podcast so far who have participated in either LEAD Maryland, LEAD Delaware or the VALOR Program down in Virginia and everyone has had the same thing to say that the program really kind of launched their career path as well as their passion for Ag. As a current LEAD Maryland fellow, I have to agree.

Do you want to tell us a little bit more about your role at Delaware Department of Agriculture before you went to DCA?

Holly Porter:

Sure, so I started at the Delaware Department of Ag as a Marketing Specialist and I was working on a mix of projects. At that time the concept of urban agriculture was really starting to take off. We were doing a lot of work in the Wilmington area, and we were also doing a lot of work and trying to connect the population in Delaware, which again is primarily within the Wilmington area with the farmers and the agricultural products that farmers have in the Kent and Sussex areas. One of my most exciting things that I worked on once I moved into the Deputy Principal Assistant role, which is really just a long title to say that I did a lot of policy work. I worked with the legislature and some other policy work as well.  One of the exciting things that I got the opportunity to work on was a Farm and Food policy. It was a lot of fun, not only because of the work that came out of it, but even more so with who I worked with. I partnered with Allison Karpyn, an expert in public health and public policy. I guess I was sort of the leader or the expert in agricultural policy. The two of us partnered together and interviewed 30 to 40 people all across the state, those who were involved in agriculture; those who were involved in public health and nutrition in urban agriculture and everything in between. I think we came up with a really good white paper with steps that we thought needed to happen in order to really connect those who are looking for food. Whether it's within food deserts or whether it's restaurants or other businesses with the farmers that are providing to that.

That was really fun. It did not necessarily tie in with chicken, but I think it gave me a broader perspective of all of agriculture in the state and a lot more digging into policy work, whether that's legislative regulatory, or just creating opportunities, marketing opportunities within to connect those.

Katie Ward:

I do think that you can't really have agriculture in Delaware without chickens. Although you weren't directly working in the poultry industry, I'm sure that was still a big part of your conversations that you were having with both farmers and consumers in the state.

Holly Porter:

We really did and we included the chicken industry in several of those interviews and those conversations because as you said, we produce a lot of chickens here on Delmarva and we want to make sure that it's a healthy, good, nutritious protein. It was really important to make sure that. Oftentimes when there's discussions of food policies, a lot of the focus is on fruits and vegetables, which again are very important, obviously for good nutrition and health; but chicken is also a great protein and a great part of anyone's diet as well. It was important to make sure that the chicken community was part of those discussions as well, especially with being right here in the state.

Katie Ward:

So that really launched you into the policy side of agriculture and your career.

How did you then end up with Delmarva Chicken Association?

Holly Porter:

There's a combination of things that really sort of led me to DCA. First of all, starting with some of the networks and the folks that we had met.  It really started back at Farm Credit, when I became the Marketing Specialist in the Delmarva area. That's obviously where I got to know Bill Satterfield and what was formally known as the Delmarva Poultry Industry. I got to know several folks from either chicken companies or chicken growers, and working under a Secretary Ed Kee, who was of course very involved with the chicken community. He introduced me to a number of other folks within the industry, several of which were board members of the Delmarva Poultry Industry. So when they were looking for what was originally the Assistant Executive Director position, which was just a transition position, knowing that Bill Satterfield was going to plan to retire, I had a couple of people that suggested my name knowing that I had both marketing and policy backgrounds, which is so important and such a big part of what DCA does. There was a couple of people that suggested that it might be a position that may interest me. Then on the other side, I think there was some folks that had talked and put my name sort of out there to the board members of then DPI. It worked out well and I think having some of those connections first, as well as really truly understanding the chicken industry, especially once I moved into the policy role at DCA, because of course chicken is about 75% of Delaware's Ag farm income. So that's very big business in Delaware. It's big amongst all of Delmarva, but definitely very big business in Delaware.

Katie Ward:

All of your previous jobs kind of set you up for this position with DCA, which as you mentioned, was formerly Delmarva Poultry Industry.

Can you give a bit of background on DPI and for those listeners who aren't familiar, what the organization is?

Holly Porter:

So DCA or formerly DPI, and I will admit, for so many years it was DPI, so every once in a while, it's still hard for DCA to roll off the tongue. Our mission is to be the advocates, to be the voice of our chicken community here on Delmarva. When I talk about the chicken community, I'm talking about our chicken growers. There's about 1,300 family farmers that raise chickens here on the Delmarva Peninsula. This also includes the chicken companies, which is what we call our Integrator Companies. We have five of those companies here on Delmarva from Allen Harim, Amick, Mountaire, Perdue Farms, and Tyson Foods. Then the third piece of our chicken community is what we call our allied businesses. Those are businesses that the chicken community has an impact on, whether it's folks like Farm Credit, it’s lenders, its insurance, its construction, and the truck drivers. It’s the folks that are providing them with maintenance service, it's the businesses like nutrition, pharmaceutical and all of those businesses in between, which are also important. It’s because of the chicken community, that's what drives many of their businesses.  We have somewhere between 1,600 and 1,700 members in those three categories.

We are run by a Board of Directors. We are a nonprofit 501 C (6), so we're not a not-for-profit or a charity, but we are a nonprofit that does advocacy work. That's really the 501-6 piece of it. We are lobbyists in the state of Delaware and in the state of Maryland and we do a lot of legislative advocacy work in Annapolis, Richmond and Dover, as well as on the local level too, because local county planning and zoning are so important as well. We’re really trying to be the voice for those farmers, those allied businesses and those companies that are not able to attend hearings in Annapolis regularly. Their job is to be out in the chicken houses, raising the birds, or in the buildings processing and so forth. So that's really a big part of our role.

We also want to make sure that we're educating our growers and making them the most efficient and the best that they can be. We've done workshops, we have a large national meeting every year that is focused on poultry health, on processing and on live production. We bring in speakers from all across the country and actually this year worldwide, educating our members on everything from different poultry diseases to different tactics within, processing centers, or robotics which definitely more automation is coming down the road. Those are really our main goals and mission is just to be that voice, to be the advocates and to help in education and to really just strengthen and make sure that folks know the importance of our chicken community here on Delmarva.

Katie Ward:

I'm just blown away at the size of your membership. I don't think I realized that you had almost 1,700 members.  That’s large, especially for the size of Delmarva. It's not geographically a big area, but that just goes to show how many players are in the game for the poultry industry and specifically chicken on Delmarva.

Holly Porter:

Absolutely. We have the five companies that themselves employ over 20,000 people. That's a significant number of jobs here in our very rural Delmarva area. When we talk about economics and we talk about numbers, we talk about a $3.5 billion dollar value. What it boils down to is jobs. When you have over 20,000 just tied to the companies, you have 1,300 family farmers and you have hundreds and hundreds of others in our allied business. Its lot of jobs, it's a lot of people that are tied to the chicken community. I often joke that when I was younger, there was the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon in tying together and I say on Delmarva, I really think there's probably only about two degrees of separation from anybody that lives or was raised on the Delmarva Peninsula to the chicken community in some form or fashion.

Katie Ward:

I think you're right about that. I grew up on the Eastern shore of Maryland as well. And although I wasn't raised on a poultry farm, there was one right across from my house. I luckily understood the workings of a poultry farm, but I think it's important that you all advocate for the industry in those state capitals and cities where people aren't as familiar with the industry.

Going a little deeper into that, can you explain your specific role within the legislature? I know this is actually quite a busy time for you as Maryland General Session is just beginning this month.

Holly Porter:

It's extremely busy and, and actually not just Maryland, all three of our States are starting session. Delaware has a short three week session in January and they break for their Joint Finance Committee hearings. They will pick back up in the March - April timeframe and will run until the end of June. Virginia actually started last week as well, and they’re on their short 30 day session. They have a long session on even number years and a shorter session on odd number of years. Then of course, Maryland has a 90 day session that started last week as well. It is hot and heavy and of course everything this year looks completely different than in the past, everything is virtual. Quite honestly in a normal year, you probably would not have caught me at home. I would have probably been in Annapolis preparing for hearings later this afternoon. Everything is a virtual and it's definitely a little more challenging. We don't have quite the access to our legislators that we've had in the past, but we're making do. Really our job is to follow all three of the legislatures, to follow the bills and to see what bills may have direct impact on the chicken community. Also, to keep an eye out on bills that maybe not impact us directly, but may have impacts on our partners and others within agriculture. The Delmarva economy is based on a three legged stool, and that really is the chicken growers, the chicken companies and our grain farmers. Our grain farmers are the ones that provide the feed for the chicken in our areas.  Agriculture on Delmarva is very much linked and tied together. Of course being within the Chesapeake Bay region, it often makes things a little bit more exciting in all three of our states with some of the different rules and policies. Colleagues of mine in other state associations, and there are a number of other state associations similar to ours in other states, that have chicken and they may not have some of or see some of the bills that we see here in our area. It's definitely a busy time and it's an important time because again, farmers are there on their farms or in their chicken houses, they're raising what will eventually be my dinner at some point. They don't have the time to engage, to pay attention, to see all of the bills, to understand what the impacts may be. That’s where it's important for associations like us to be there and to make sure that we're paying attention to those things because eventually those impacts could hurt the farmer when they're out on their farm or in their chicken house.

Katie Ward:

I know I’ve seen many of your testimonies in the past, with my previous job at Farm Bureau, and then now at Farm Credit and really you and all of DCA do such a great job of sharing the stories of your growers and your integrators and allied partners. Most of the members who sit in on the state legislature don't fully understand how poultry farms work and it is their job to protect the Chesapeake Bay and to also protect the industry of agriculture in their state. It’s a very fine line that they want to make sure that all of the environmental procedures are being followed, but then also that the farmers are able to grow safe and reliable products, whether that's poultry or any other grain or commodity that we have in our three states on Delmarva. You do such a great job of sharing those true stories and allowing the legislature to see the full picture of how poultry is raised and produced.

Holly Porter:

You really hit the nail on the head. I mean, we know that less than 2% of the United States population, are farmers or agriculture and we've seen as the years go on, more and more people that are removed from it. Folks who may have been 50 years ago that your grandfather or great-grandfather was involved, but that is getting wider and wider away. It’s so important for people to understand first and foremost, farmers are feeding us, they are putting food on our tables, so that for those of us who don't want to be farmers, we can pursue other occupations. I think that’s important for anyone to understand, but especially our legislatures. When you have more urban areas and you have more legislators from those urban areas, that disconnect is just so strong and they don't necessarily understand that farmers are people, farmers are small businesses, and farmers are very diverse.

It’s just important to not only talk about numbers, economics and jobs, but to also talk about the people and about how these folks are raising birds. What it is they do every day, their day to day care for animal welfare, all the way up to the companies and the work that they do for taking care, for the veterinary animal welfare. Then, even how these companies are working with their employees, those 20,000 employees. What they are doing as good businesses to make sure their employees are happy or healthy, and taken care of as well. At the end of the day, it all comes down to people and it comes down to food.  That's really what agriculture is all about. It’s just as important to share that as best as we can. This year, I was really pleased to be able to partner with the Grain Producers Association of Maryland to offer a virtual farm tour. Of course, we really love to get folks out on farms, but it's a little trickier with our chicken farms because of biosecurity measures. The biosecurity really have nothing to do with the humans. It's biosecurity to make sure that our chickens are protected and that they don't have any illnesses, but it was a little bit more difficult to do that this year. We did a virtual farm tour that we shared with the Maryland House, Environmental and Transportation Committee. I think that was a different perspective and a great opportunity. Every time that we can bring in the people to talk about what folks do, I think it helps for legislators who have to make some really important decisions to understand the truth and what is and isn't going on.

Katie Ward:

I know that's much appreciated by everyone, not even just the legislature, but the other stakeholders who are involved in those tours, whether they're in-person or virtual, they still can learn something and take something away that will help them in making those future decisions.

That leads me into the next thing I wanted to briefly discuss is the app that DCA recently launched, connecting poultry, growers, and grain farmers with litter. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Holly Porter:

The littr. app was really fun for me. I think this was because it's sort of bringing back my marketing roots in a lot of ways. I do so much work with advocacy, policy and legislature that it was really fun to work on this app and to work with a team of app designers who know nothing at all about the chicken industry or litter. We had a lot of fun, as you can only imagine when you are creating a matching tool, a match.com for litter essentially, which is what it is. We definitely had a lot of fun, but really the reason behind this is we've worked quite a bit in Maryland over the past six, seven years now on the Phosphorous Management Tool Regulations (PMT) regulations, which once they go into full effect will impact those farms who may be in the past, have been able to utilize litter and commercial fertilizer on their fields. Once they get over a certain phosphorus level, they will no longer be able to add litter or phosphorous at all, but add litter in particular, they will have to switch to commercial nitrogen use. What we were hearing was that we have farms that are looking for litter because they recognize that this is not a waste, litter is not a waste. I can't emphasize that enough. It is a valuable fertilizer, it is a slow release, organic, locally produced fertilizer that has so many benefits to soil health. We kept hearing a number of farmers saying, I'm looking for litter and I can't find it. We heard chicken growers saying I have litter and I don't know what to do with it and where to go with it. Somewhere there seemed to be a disconnect and we could never could quite understand where the disconnect was going and what was causing that. We in the state of Maryland have a couple of hotlines and they had a couple of options that people could call in, but we said, you know, there should be an easy way to do this. That’s when we started talking about developing some type of app with the concept of either a match.com or a Zillow or realtor.com because of the listing idea. We had a lot of discussions within one of the groups that we belong within the Delmarva Land and Litter Collaborative, and they really felt this was a great idea. They encouraged us to apply for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, which we did in April and we were pleased to receive that grant. I really started working on it probably about the June - July timeframe. One of the key things that we did with this app is we made sure we had stakeholder input. I do not have litter and my little 0.02 acres does not utilize litter. While I had a general understanding about what was needed, I'm not the stakeholder, I'm not going to end up being the user. Very early on we developed surveys that went out to both chicken growers and to grain farmers, just to get a better idea of what would be needed and what would be important. We also pulled several of those grain farmers, growers, and then some of the third-party providers, custom applicators, and brokers together as part of a focus group to again, to make sure we were asking for the right fields, that we were getting the right information in the app that would be needed in order to make these connections. We worked with those stakeholders and again, we worked on the app throughout the summer and well into the fall. We then brought many of those stakeholders back together and we asked them to help us do the beta testing. We had something designed and we wanted them to use it, to make sure that the functionalities were working and that it made sense. We gathered even more feedback and then I was pleased to see that we could officially roll it out on both Google Play and the Apple store by the end of December, which was our target goal, knowing that many farmers right now are already thinking about planting season. I saw someone said the other day, we're only nine weeks away from spring planting, so we're really tickled with it.

I will say again that the fun part for me personally is it's not only building the app, but now we have to market it. We have to let people know the app is available. We've been doing a lot of work again with a lot of partnerships and I really appreciate all the partnerships from the Farm Bureaus to our State Departments of Agriculture, to grain producers, soybean boards, and Farm Credit. It’s just really a lot of people sharing this information, getting the word out and within just a couple of weeks of having it up and running, we have well over a hundred registered users. As of yesterday, I think we had about 10 to 11 different listings out there as well. The listings are grain farmers that might be looking for litter. They are growers that may have litter available and then they are also those brokers, haulers, and those third-party custom applicators that are really important. We recognize there are many grain farmers that while they know the value and see the value in litter, they may not have the equipment that they need in order to spread the litter onto the field. Working with somebody that has that equipment is going to be an important piece of it as well. We’re really pleased to see the rollout and see it doing so well so far.

Katie Ward:

That's such a great tool to bridge the gap between all of the different stakeholders and users of the litter, so I applaud you all on that app. I know when you presented it to our Delmarva Farm Credit staff last week, a lot of them were anxious to tell their members because they have had, whether it be grain farmers or poultry growers, reach out to them even asking where they could get or sell litter. It is such a great tool for growing on Delmarva and since we've already got it, why not use it? That app is definitely going to help a lot of growers and producers in the future.

Now diving into the rebranding discussion, do you want to first start off with a brief history of the old brand and logo Delmarva Poultry Industry, and explain the look and the name and then why your organization and board wanted to change that?

Holly Porter:

Sure, so the Delmarva Poultry Association or I'm sorry, the Delmarva Poultry Industry, I'm confusing myself now. We started in 1948 and we were not DPI then either. We were actually the Delmarva Chicken Festival and that's really was our history and how we got started. Our role back then in the 1940s is when A&P Supermarket was trying to find an award-winning breed of chicken that would be good for chicken dinner. Keep in mind, it's really hard to imagine, but in the early 1900’s, people did not eat chicken like we do now. Chickens were really raised for eggs and when the chickens got old and they could no longer be used for eggs, they went into a pot and usually became chicken soup, but those birds were old, they were chewy, it wasn't like the chicken that we have today. They really didn't have chicken nuggets back then either. A&P was really trying to do a contest to try to produce a good, young chicken that would have a good taste. It was actually a part of the University of Delaware, they were really featured in doing some of that research. A group of folks wanted to have a festival to highlight this and to highlight the chicken cooking contest as well. That’s really how we got started so many years ago. Several years after that they did change the name to the Delmarva Poultry Industry and the logo that we used to have is very reminiscent of that cooking contest of that festival. We had the cute little bird that had the chef's hat on its head, because that was really how we got started. That was the work that we did. At that time, a big part of our mission was to promote eat more chicken. It was a big part of our mission. We wanted more folks to start eating chicken on a more regular basis and that was a lot of the work that we did. We didn't do nearly the legislative work. We didn't have quite the same in the education piece or the consumer piece for that matter. Our consumer work was just encouraging people to eat chicken.

Katie Ward:

It was more associated with the food and the prep and the cooking?

Holly Porter:

Correct. Years and years went by, things have changed over the years and our chicken festival ended. The last one was actually, I believe in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. It ended a number of years ago. It was hard to find enough locations and volunteers to really make this two - three day festival occur. We also had a retirement within DPI. Connie Parvis, who had been the head of this festival for so many years. The timing sort of worked, and I think the other important piece is people are eating chicken.  We’re up to the point where the average consumer will eat 90 pounds of chicken a year.  So I think we could check the box that we definitely helped encouraging the promotion of eating chicken.

In 2018, while our former Executive Director was still here and we were transitioning, the Board of Directors decided to do strategic planning. They really wanted to take a look at DPI, both now and looking at in the future. We went back to many strategic plans, which we asked for input. We got some survey work and asked for input from our membership. We asked for input from other stakeholders as well. We formed a focus group of members to really dig into where are we and where do we want to go? Part of that strategic plan was a big discussion about rebranding and not just necessarily a new logo or a new name, but just the whole scope that goes behind rebranding the voice, the look, the recognition. Part of that rebranding was again, to make sure that we were reaching our target audiences, whether that was internally for new growers coming on or externally for people within the public. Now we're starting to talk more to consumers again, not necessarily about eating food, but how we're raising food and what we're doing, especially on the environmental side.

Katie Ward:

The education aspect of it has certainly grown.

Holly Porter:

Right, absolutely.

The Board of Directors approved the strategic plan in 2018 and we started to get to work. One of the first action items was to have a discussion on rebranding. We hired an outside consulting group who are experts in public relations, marketing and rebranding. As much as that is my background as the Executive Director, it's certainly is not where my focus can be at this point in time. We knew we needed some outside help to take a look at this. We also formed an internal committee of other marketers, other folks in public relations, communications to help us in try to define what is our brand and what should our brand be and where should we be going? I believe you may have participated in a few of those meetings as well and was very much appreciated that.

Katie Ward:

Yes, I loved being on that committee. It kind of was a mastermind group of industry creatives, and it's always good to bounce ideas off of other people and kind of open your eyes to new perspectives.

Holly Porter:

I think it's difficult when you've been in a silo or been in one direction for so long to be able to think outside of the box. That was an important piece of making sure that we got some additional stakeholder feedback. Of course the first thing that we needed to do was as we started to get feedback. We did some focus group work, both within the industry, as well as outside, trying to pull some of those consumers to get feedback as to what did people think of us? Who did they think of us? What were the things that came to mind?

Katie Ward:

Was that really eye opening to you or where the results kind of what you expected?

Holly Porter:

I think for the most part, it was what we expected. I think that internally for those who are within the chicken or Ag community, there's a lot of recognition of who we are, externally maybe not so much. I think the other piece was, and we saw this even from our survey work originally with the strategic plans, oftentimes there is, confusion with the name Delmarva Poultry Industry. That term industry, sometimes confused people. Oftentimes industry is used to be more representative of say our chicken companies. There were people that will say, you're an organization that's only representing the chicken companies here. We were like, no, that’s not the case. Or with the allied businesses, it was like, where do we fit in? Like, you know, again, you're here to represent the chicken companies or the chicken growers?

Some of that feedback I think was, was a little bit eye opening. Early on there was definitely an interest in changing the industry part, what that meant. I think the other important piece is, the discussion of chicken versus poultry. What we have here on the Delmarva is the meat chicken industry. That is what we focus on. We do know there are some other layer operations, which is your table eggs for the most part. There's a couple of those here in the Northern part of the Delmarva. We have one or two small turkey operations, but nothing large by any means. Our concentration here on Delmarva is the meat chicken industry. We wanted to make sure that was really clear to people as to who it is we're talking about, what it is we're talking again, trying to help with some of that confusion, because how we raise our meat chickens is very different than how layer chickens are raised. When we start getting into the discussion of cages and cage-free. Our meat chickens have always been cage-free. They are in a house, they are free to move about the house as much as they want, so some of those things were really important and making sure that we're really defining who it is that we're representing as well.

 Our Board of Directors had two different discussions, two different meetings, and looking at what that name change should be based off of the feedback. The name change was the first thing that was voted on and really helped us in then saying, okay, now we want to take a look at the logo. The old logo was very representative of the chicken festival and the chicken cooking contest of which we don't do it. It really was no surprise that we said we really need to change the logo. We needed to update the look of the logo. Within the chicken community it’s a very iconic logo. Outside of that not too many people recognize it. As a marketer, I will tell you one of the things that often bothered me is that in our old logo, said DPI and that was it. If you didn't know what DPI stood for, you really didn't know who we were. We went back to work with our team, both within the focus groups, as well as within the stakeholder team we have put together, as well as with our outside company in looking at some designs, to really try to  understand what we were looking for.

We had several mock-ups that were put together, and we shared those with several stakeholders. We shared them at Delaware Ag Week. Unfortunately when we shared them was also when the Chicken Day was canceled due to Coronavirus, so go figure. There was a number of other people that participated in Delaware Ag Week, both chicken and grain growers, and others. We shared some of these mock-ups and we got some really good feedback. Some of the feedback was great because some of the colors that were originally used people were quick to say, that’s not good, those colors don’t work, and it was helpful. We then took those back to the Board of Directors and really got their feedback and their input. We tweaked it a little bit and ended up with where we are now. There's a couple points to our new logo that I'm excited about. I am probably a little bit more geeked out over from the marketing perspective than others. A couple of things that were really important to us was to make sure that we were recognizing our heritage, that's really important within the Delmarva chicken community. Folks have been in this business for years, families have been in this business for years. The meat chicken industry got its start right here in Ocean View, Delaware when 500 chicks were sent instead of 50 and they needed to know what to do with that. Our heritage is so important within our Delmarva region and so that was important when we put in there EST 1948, because that's how we got started. We’re the same organization that we've always been, just with a new look and name.

The other important piece, of course, as I just alluded to is to make sure that our name was actually in our logo so that it was clear as to who we are. We use the blue and the yellow that are very traditional colors, going back to our roots. A lot of those stemming around the University of Delaware, but again, very traditional blue and gold colors. We also had a sunrise look. A lot of people see that when it comes to farming and agriculture, the sun is rising, it's optimistic. I think farmers are definitely the eternal optimist, a new day is going to bring new opportunities, so that was sort of the starburst or sunburst. Then of course the chicken, a meat broiling type chicken that we have in the center of our logo and that chicken is facing forward.  That's probably a little thing that there very few people noticed, but it was one that definitely was important to me because, our logo before was sort of facing what I would call backwards or towards the past. We wanted this chicken to be facing forward. Finally, having it in a circle and to me, the circle is really important because that talks about our connection. As an association, we are connecting all members of this association and we're connecting all members of the association with other stakeholders. Whether that’s academics, state and federal agencies, the community, or the Delmarva community overall, we want to make sure that we are connecting and a part of those overall connections. That was the deep dive into the logo that most people may not necessarily appreciate, but I think it was really important. As were hearing the feedback and some of the disconnect about who it is we represent, we really want to make it picks up on our heritage. We really want to make sure that folks recognize the longevity of this association. I think that they did a great job in tying that all together.

Katie Ward:

I agree and I think that a lot of listeners, if they're not directly in marketing, communications and branding, they might not realize exactly how much goes into designing a logo and rebranding. That was a lot of really crucial aspects in the design that when I first looked at the logo, I didn't realize, especially the position of the chicken facing forward. That’s really impactful and it’s something that if you just quickly glance at it, you probably subconsciously pick up on without even realizing it. We'll put the old DPI logo and then the new DCA logo up on our website for the podcast, that way anyone who isn't familiar can take a look. We'll link to DCA website too, because there are other aspects of your brand, not just the name and the logo, but new videos and new website.

Do you want to talk about the rollout of the brand?

Holly Porter:

Sure, and I think that you really hit it. That's so important for many people it was really hard to wrap their heads around what does rebranding mean? A name change, a logo change are are all just pieces of this bigger brand, this bigger look.

A couple of things that have been really important as we've done the rollout is consistency. Making sure we were incorporating those consistent colors, the fonts that look, that feel, that's all part of the brand. It's all part of any time somebody is to read something or look at something and at first glance, if they can connect right away, you know what that's tied to, that's branding. When you think about Coca-Cola, everyone has in their mind, the red and the white and the look of the logo, you know that’s the brand. You know the Nike swoosh, you barely have to glance somewhere and when you see the swoosh, you know that it’s Nike.

Katie:

And everyone also thinks “just do it” when they see the swoosh, putting the whole aspect of what they represent and what they look like together.

Holly Porter:

The important piece too, is what do we want to convey? We’re trying to have a very professional look, but we're also trying to have some of our tone. Even in our newsletters and our writing, trying to be an inclusive feel, trying to connect people. All of those pieces that are often very subtle, we’re trying to, as we continue to move forward and roll outs that even when you look at our newsletter, it just has a little bit more of a distinct, professional look that again matches that consistency. That’s something that as we move forward, we're looking to probably update even more. When you look at some of our videos, presentations and just any of our collateral material or what we print, it has that consistent look, feel and the tone. We are just really trying to identify who we are and what we're here for and get not only internally recognized, but recognized externally as well.

We've received great feedback, which is good. It is always a little nerve wracking when you're making such a significant change. I will share that we officially rolled out the name change and logo in November, but to be honest, we actually had planned to do it in April. So like many things with COVID, we were postponed. We had completed the rebranding work. We had completed the design work. We had completed everything and we're planning to roll all of this out at our big booster banquet event that we usually have in April, where we have over 900 people that attend. We were very excited to be doing the rollout in a much bigger splash than what we were sort of faced to do with COVID. I think everybody out there has had to make adjustments including, DCA as well. It was very important to our Board of Directors since all of the work had been done to still get this out. We know that we’re in the middle of the pandemic. We know that the chicken community has definitely felt that pandemic in different ways. But we also knew it was really important that we move forward. We keep looking forward with the work that we've done. Our Board of Directors, driven by our then President, he's our immediate past president now, Dale Cook, sat down and said, yes, we want to move this forward. We want to roll this out before the end of the year. That’s when we tied it with our annual meeting, which again is a much smaller event.  We moved forward with some e-blast and we did a virtual press conference and we did all that we could promoting and sharing the information as much as we could. We did a video taping of our president, talking a little bit about it. We had some unique opportunities that we may not have done prior to COVID, but we're looking forward to sharing it more as we get back together more in public and start seeing people as well. I think so far our feedback has been good. It is sort of nerve-racking when you're taking a name and a logo that has been around for so many years that just rolls off of the tongue and changing that. The feedback has been really, really good and we couldn't be more pleased and we’re moving along as the new DCA.

Katie Ward:

I think the new name and the logo leave no questions. It's very obvious that you're an association that supports chicken on Delmarva. When I see the colors, I also think of University of Delaware and the heritage is showing through.

I'm sure you almost have a little spiel that you say, especially the last two weeks with the state legislatures opening back up, to introduce that you’re DCA, formerly DPI, new brand, same mission, that sort of thing.

Holly Porter:

Yes, absolutely. That’s what we say, just a new name, new look, but the same organization with the same passion and mission for all of our members.

Katie Ward:

Are there any lessons that you or DCA has learned during this rebranding process? If so, do you have any tips for those in the Ag industry who may be rebranding in the future?

Holly Porter:

I think that's a great question. I would say like we did with our littr. app, getting stakeholder engagement is really important and you can't miss that piece. The market research that's done, you can't rush something as big as rebranding. It really should be thought through, making sure the why and that the why fits with doing it because it's “the easy parts.” And I say that with air quotes, because you can’t see that on a podcast. The easy part to some extent was, we've got a logo, we've got a name change, and it’s all of the steps to follow that go with that can be time-consuming. You really want to make sure that when you're making those changes that you've really thought it through, that you've had that stakeholder input, that you've got the buy-in from them and for us, Board of Directors as a nonprofit, but also from our membership. We've shared over the years a little bit about the rebranding, what that meant in our newsletters, even before we were completed, just to make sure that folks can understand it. So I would say that the biggest tips are just making sure to really do that market research, get that stakeholder feedback and listen to that feedback before making any major changes or moves.

Katie Ward:

Those are great tips and I think it is important to really listen to your stakeholders and engage with them because you have direct connections with your members, but those outside of the organization who need to use DCA, whether it be for educational purposes or resources also need to be looped in on that conversation.

Are there any exciting next steps for DCA or for you, yourself, now that the new brand and the littr. app, both coming out at the end of last year, in the beginning of this year, both two really big parts to the organization and have a lot of moving pieces.

Holly Porter:

I think the most important part of 2021 is to focus on figuring out how to get back to a new normal or a normal. The things that we're really going to be focusing on is just continuing with the rebranding and the rolling out and having more and more people aware of it. We have a number of events that we generally do throughout the year, including our booster banquet, our scholarship golf tournament, and national meeting. I think all of those have to be adjusted. Last year, we had to unfortunately cancel the booster banquet. We are very much looking forward to doing something this year, that something is still being worked out as to what that will be and what that will look like. I think a lot of our focus this year will almost be trying to get back to that normal and probably trying to get back at taking a look at our strategic plan. I think 2020, just like most folks, really blew planning anything out of the water for a lot of things. Our Board President this year, who is also a Farm Credit employee, Jennifer Feindt, she and I have had several conversations about what the goals for DCA this year. I think really a lot of it is just trying to get back to some type of normal. Our board will be so excited the first time they can have an in-person board meeting again.

Katie Ward:

Definitely no doubt.  That's important to really reflect on the new brand and make sure that it is completely rolled out because I know that it, like you said, it's not something that you want to rush. So kind of using the whole year to make sure all of your stakeholders are familiar with the new brand and making sure that the littr. app is marketed and utilized which it already has great success. I do think that's probably most organizations plans for this year is just to put 2020 behind us and move forward and figure out what that will look like.

We do have one question that we like to ask all of our guests on the podcast before we sign off and that is what do you advocate for in agriculture?

Holly Porter:

What I advocate for is the ability for my father who loves nothing better than to be on the tractor, to have that ability to do so. If that means that my voice in sharing what farmers do and all of the great things that they do to provide us food, but also all great things they do to protect our environment and to protect their livelihoods. I think that's the important piece that is advocacy to me is just making sure that anything that I'm doing in helping to better our agricultural community is also going to make it so that my father can continue being on the tractor for as long as he wants to do so.

Katie Ward:

That’s really nice and I think that most people who grew up on a family farm would agree with you. That's really where they got their love for agriculture, and they want to make sure that the people that they love can continue doing what they love.

Holly Porter:

Absolutely.

Katie Ward:

Well, thank you so much, Holly. We really appreciate you taking time out of the busy legislature season to talk with us and share with our listeners a lot about your career and the Delmarva Chicken Association’s rebranding.

Holly Porter:

Thank you, I really appreciate it. It's been a lot of fun and I appreciate catching up with some Farm Credit colleagues as well too.

Katie Ward:

Thanks again for listening to the AgVocates Podcast.  Remember to rate, review, subscribe, and share this episode with a friend. You can get podcasts notes and subscribe to email alerts at MAFC.com/podcast. You can also email and topics of guest suggestions to podcast@mafc.com.