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Effective immediately, we’re retiring our Field Assignment blog and encouraging you and your colleagues to visit our new State of the Plate blog regularly instead. State of the Plate combines the best of Field Assignment with the best of Reputation Forward, our reputation management-focused blog that’s also being retired. Our twofold rationale:

1. We’re all in with agriculture and food. When we first started these blogs, we had reputation management clients outside of agriculture and the food system. Not anymore. Everything we do—from CSR plans to print ads to social media campaigns—contributes to the success of organizations that contribute to the success of that food system. Having one blog focuses that passion nicely.
2. We’re all about connecting the dots. What’s happening in agriculture matters to the food industry just as much as what’s happening in the food industry matters to agriculture. With our extensive experience in both worlds, we’re uniquely able to connect those dots—and it’s a lot easier on you if we’re not sending you two places to do it.

Take a look. Share your feedback. See you there.


Before Walter, the house was quiet, too quiet. Our dog of 15 years—a glossy-red, spider-fearing gun dog—had recently passed on, leaving us without the morning nuzzles and constant tail bashings.

Our 10-year-old said it best: “I haven’t been alive without a dog.”

So, half-heartedly, we went online with our collective/not-so-definitive wish list:

Small, scruffy, full of character. House-trained (everything crossed). Cute, hamster-like soft, with see-in-the-dark eyes and a ferocious, house defending bark.
Does tricks (everything crossed).four_legged

More than eight million dogs and cats enter shelters in the U.S. each year.  More than half don’t make it out alive. For us there was no question, we had to get a rescue dog.


So, we looked at a lot of pictures of stray dogs . Then, one day, we saw Walter. With his bright, little eyes and heart-shaped nose,
this 8-lb, lion-like meld of yorkie, chihuahua and poodle melted our hearts.

Was Walter a good fit for us?

Getting a rescue dog is a bit like buying a refurbished computer: great on day one, then the quirks set in. But, despite the odd “grrr” (you know who you are), taking on Daisy, the neighbor’s St. Bernard, and his unexpected fur cannonball maneuver, he is a delight._G2A1934

As my obviously smitten 10-year old puts it: “It is kisses, kisses, kisses. Won’t sit, will dance. Kisses, kisses, kisses. He cannonballs everywhere–even out of a kayak.”

All I’ll say is he rescued us more than we rescued him.

Even if you’re not in a position to rescue, consider a donation. After all, it is Dog Appreciation Day today  Hartland’s Fluffy Dog Rescue will be so grateful.



When I sat down to write this blog I realized water quality suddenly felt like a much heavier topic than I originally considered. Working with industry leaders in agriculture, it’s certainly not news to me that water resource depletion is a huge challenge for food production systems and global populations.

As with any massive challenge threatening an industry’s ability to meet consumers’ basic needs, like food, I find myself trying to figure out what I can do, as one small person, to make an impact. Thanks to it being National Water Quality month in the U.S. there’s a plethora of resources to help answer that question.

iStock_000024756336MediumAccording to the EPA, about 40% of recently surveyed bodies of water have water quality problems. Runoff from water flowing over the land and gathering contaminants is a leading cause of water quality degradation. While agriculture, urban runoff and construction are all contributors—so is your backyard, literally! As the Audobon Society points out, “Each individual household may not produce enough pollution to force a beach closing or cause a fish kill, but the combined output of all the homes in a community can be severe.”

What’s more concerning, about half of the people in the U.S. live within 50 miles of a coastline where runoff flows into the ocean. Because of this, it’s important we recognize watershed protection—not just the body of water, but that which drains into it.

So what can you as an individual or a household do to protect and restore water quality?

• Keep usage in mind—Does the tap need to run while you brush your teeth? Can some of that deep thinking be done after the shower has been turned off?

• Keep anything you wouldn’t want in your water out of the toilet or drain (i.e., unwanted or out-of-date medications, harsh cleaning products).

• Don’t put anything except water down storm drains.

• Dispose of pet waste—don’t leave it where it can be carried away by precipitation.

• Manage landscape projects properly and use healthy lawn care practices.

• Use rainwater to your advantage—collect or divert runoff from your roof and create a rain garden or make a rain barrel to store it!

• Get involved—there are cleanup or restoration projects all over! Clear invasive plants and help clean up trash on the river bank. If you can’t find a project, start your own!

Being aware of the problem and ways you can help restore and protect our waterways into the future can make a big impact. What are you doing to celebrate National Water Quality Month?


I have a strong appreciation for the dairy cow—and the wonderful dairy industry—so it only seems fitting on Cow Appreciation Day to express my gratitude. Dairy cows provide so much to us through a variety of tasty products, but for me, they have provided even more—my life’s true passion.

At the age of seven I was given a very unique Christmas present—an Ayrshire calf. My aunt and uncle, along with my cousins, own and operate Castonguay Ayrshires, and my uncle quickly saw how much I loved to visit the calves on their farm. To him, it only seemed fitting that I should have a chance to raise my own calf and show her at the local county fairs.

What no one realized at the time was what an impact that one calf would have on the rest of my life. Starlight was my first 4-H project, which spurred 10 years of 4-H activities, a college degree in dairy science and a career in agricultural marketing. Today my husband and I have two Brown Swiss heifers at our home that we hope to show one day.

Thank you to the beautiful bovines that have made all of this possible. Here are a few photos of the ladies I appreciate today!

My first heifer, Starlight

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My sister Abby and I sporting milk mustaches at the county fair

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Showing Pamela at the Wisconsin State Show in 2010

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Our Brown Swiss bovines, Wisco and Waterloo

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As you may have read in the past, Charleston|Orwig has a community garden. Here’s a recap of the program:
• At least half of what is grown within the garden is donated to food banks.
• Employees can have smaller individual plots to grown our own vegetables as long as we help with the community beds.
• C|O donates much of the materials needed to get the garden growing and maintained over the summer.
With all the rain we’ve had so far this summer it’s no surprise our little garden is growing rather quickly! Seems every time we head out to check on the beds we’ve got new veggies sprouting up. Our beds have been planted, some from seeds and some from plants, and we’ve got a great variety of produce in our community plots: carrots, radishes, Swiss chard, lettuces, beans and zucchini.

For the first time this year we left it up to our social networks to vote on what should populate two of our community beds—winners were tomatoes and peppers. So far we’ve harvested radishes and some Swiss chard that we’ve donated to the local food pantry and we’re eager to see the rest of the hauls in future harvests!

As an agency dedicated to the food system, seeing food being grown and cared for by our coworkers has been really exciting. It’s a great learning experience for those of us novice gardeners and a great opportunity for our employees living in areas without room for growing their own gardens.

Follow the garden’s activity on our Facebook page where we’ll be providing updates on garden growth, harvesting and, hopefully, some tips we’ve gathered along the way! Now, who’s got recipes for zucchini? We’re going to have a LOT of that on our hands!


June is National Hunger Awareness Month. What an opportunity to share why #HungerCantWait.

One in six Americans are hungry in the United States, yet we live in the most abundant food-producing country in the world. By 2050, 9 billion people will live on this planet. That’s about 2 billion more than our population today. Our food systems need resources to catch up, let alone keep up.

This upcoming fall semester will be the fifth Tour where C|O continues to help our client, Farm Journal Foundation, plan and execute HungerU, a mobile initiative to raise awareness about the world’s hunger crisis. By visiting campuses across the United States, the Tour aims to capture the next generation of influencers in time to bring the growing problem into their line of vision.

In 1960, the average American farmer fed about 25 people, as compared to today when each American farmer feeds about 144 people. That means that not only is the population growing at a faster rate than ever before, but our farmers are already feeding exponentially more than they ever have. We have to keep advancing technology quick enough to help them catch up and keep up.

By helping spread the word, you can help bring immediacy to this growing global crisis. We need more investment in research and technology that offers a variety of solutions to suit all terrains, cultures and economies. There are plenty of ways to make a direct impact in your community, too.

It’s easy to stay up-to-date and connected to the HungerU initiative. To find out about opportunities to make a difference and learn other reasons why #HungerCantWait, be sure to follow them on Facebook or Twitter.


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