Social Media use by farmers and ranchersBy Mike Barnett

Social media in agriculture for third generation farmer and rancher Jeff Fowle boils down to a few simple words: “That is what I am. That is what I share. This is my story.”

Fowle, who didn’t know Twitter from Facebook two years ago, is now regarded as an expert in agricultural social media. He spoke those words at Texas Farm Bureau‘s summer commodity conference recently. They stuck with me. I hope they stick with you as well.

Agriculture is very good at telling consumers what is good for them. We’re not so good at listening; or talking; or changing the way we operate to meet their expectations. We must engage consumers in meaningful dialogue. We must build trust.

Social media is an opportunity to meet the myriad of challenges facing agriculture today–not to get in a fuss fight with those whom we disagree, but to participate in a discussion that will turn heads and change minds.
I know a rancher in Hamilton County named Lloyd Huggins. He’s active on Facebook. Recently, at the request of the editor of the local paper, he started writing a column about agriculture.

Lloyd said the editor paid little attention to agriculture before he started writing. Through that column, however, Lloyd established a connection–not only with the editor, but with consumers throughout the county. As a result, the story of agriculture is a bigger part of the local news.

That kind of engagement builds the bonds which will wash away the misconceptions and mistruths and misunderstandings about agriculture. No, you don’t have to write a newspaper column. It can be as simple as participating on Facebook.

Facebook, as Jeff Fowle says, is social media on training wheels. It’s a good place to get your feet wet. If you’re not signed up, start small. Join Facebook with a circle of close, personal friends. Get comfortable. Then expand your circle.

Talk about your operation. Talk about the challenges farmers and ranchers face with the drought.  Talk about how it is in your best interest–and the consumer’s best interest–to operate in an environmentally friendly manner. Talk about what you do to keep the water clean, the air fresh and food safe. Share pictures of your operation. Build communities. Earn their trust. Opportunities to engage with consumers are limited only by your time and desire.
As Jeff Fowle says, “People need to know who you are before they care about what you know.”

The people who want to change the way we farm are effectively selling their messages to housewives, soccer moms, single parents and decision-makers every day. Social media is a way for every single farmer and rancher to counter those arguments. It is a way for farmers and ranchers to share what they do, why they do it and how it is done.

“If agriculture falls through the cracks, it’s our own fault,” one county Farm Bureau leader told me following the conference.

He is right. Jeff Fowle is right. It’s time to tell your story. What better time than now?

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Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

3 Responses to “One small step with social media, one giant leap for agriculture”

  1. Charles Gearhart says:

    Very interesting. Guess I’m going to have to get better acquainted with Facebook and Twitter.

  2. Billy B. Brown says:

    Belly up to the keyboards everybody and tell your story. Everyone has one to tell….and there are some folks interested in it. Brag on what ya do…

  3. I agree whole heartedly in this. Going "viral" has been a hugely succesful strategy for a lot of businesses, why not agriculture too?

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