Farming and ranching organizations are using to social media to drive agricutlural advocacy campaigns to help support and promote the industry—and they are doing a fantastic job! Agricultural social media campaigns range from pure advocacy efforts to tools to promote transparency and accountability.
Not only are agricultural orgnaizations using social media, farmers and ranchers are too. They are tweeting, posting pictures and vidoes online, and also turning to forums and message boards to discuss farming best practices and techniques. This trend has been picked up by national media during the past several months and people are noticing the grassroots-level impacts. The Associated Press, publshed an article on July 8 noting how farmers and ranchers are using Twitter to advocate for the industry, and Forbes noted how commodity traders are using farmer-generated social media to look “for clues about crops and information about the markets in which they trade”.
To enhance the already immergent grassroots movement within the agricultural industry, organizations such as the AgChat Foundation and the Maryland Grain Producers Association are training farmers and ranchers to use social media connect with consumers and to also serve as “spokespersons” for the industry. The AgChat Foundation holds weekly Twitter-based, hashtag-driven chats to discuss agricultural issues and to answer questions from the public. #AgChat is very active and continues to grow week by week.
As time progresses, an industry known for traditionalism and an aging workforce is changing perceptions through personble, relevant messages in channels that are highly frequented and visible to the public. It is the industry’s responibility to use these tools and techniques, along with strategic communications and creative messaging and positioning, to effectively reach out an educate consumers, school children, disinterested publics, and even advocates, among the many audiences.
The oppourtunities are endless, and the time is now! Over the next year or two, be on the lookout of agriculture in the digital space.
The following is a highlight of 10 recent social media endovours within the industry. Enjoy!
(1) I Love Farmers, a California-based, student run endeavor, is using hip and edgy branding and social media channels to “create a conversation among our peers about our food, our farmers and our future.” The students are using digital and social media to educate the public about where their food comes from and to promote the industry. The website also has a series of associated blogs.
(2) Princess Kay, crowned by the Minnesota Dairy Farmers serves as a spokesperson to consumers “conducting media interviews, making classroom visits to educate students about the dairy industry, giving speeches to various organizations and making public appearances at promotions or events”. This year Princess Kay has turned to Facebook to spread her message. She has 1,123 Facebook fans and uses the social network to connect with her audience, integrating offline events and digital messages.
(3) Gilmer Dairy Farm, located in Alabama, is using a wide-range of social media channels to connect and communicate with its customers and the general public. Gilmer Dairy has a very active YouTube channel, Twitter account, Facebook page, and blog. The YouTube channel has 66 video uploads, with over 60,000 views! Gilmer Dairy is helping to bridge the gap between farm and plate, educating consumers about dairy production and agriculture.
(4) Butter-fy Yourself is a very interesting application on Facebook, developed by the Midwest Dairy Association. Through Butter-fy Yourself, anyone can go online and make a butter sculpture (such as the butter statues popular at state fairs). I particularly like this application because it’s different and unique, and also because spreads awareness of the Midwest Dairy brand long after the state fair is over—both to publics that are familiar with the brand, and also those who are not.
(5) AgBoards Network is a series of very popular, very active online forums for farmers, ranchers, and businesses to discuss agricultural-related issues. HayBoard is the most popular, with hundreds of active threads and thousands of posts. Forums, as social media, are very useful for communicating information and creating discussion amongst a large audience. For example, when I was younger and raised lambs for county livestock shows, I used a forum called MyLamb.org (which is still in existence and very active) to learn about animal care and production practices—everything from feeds and antibiotics to exercise and show ring techniques.
“The AgBoards Network, creators of HayTalk.com amongst other farming sites, have expanded their network of agriculture web communities with the release of RowCropTalk.com, AgMeet.com, and AgLoop.com, a new social network aimed at both farmers and businesses in the agriculture industry.
“The new websites now stand beside a lineup of other popular farming forums created by AgBoards: TractorFocus.com, RanchingForums.com, and HayTalk.com.
“Most exciting is the release of AgLoop.com, a social network aimed at farmers and agriculture businesses. AgLoop has been called the “Facebook of Agriculture” and provides users with an opportunity to create an in-depth profile of themselves or their business. The site affords users a place not just to chat and post photos, but build personal and professional connections that can be invaluable in the future.”
(6) Keep it Rural, a campaign by AgFirst Farm Credit Bank, has created a series of video and photo contests to spread the word of the industry. Each contest has associated cash prizes, a great incentive to get people to participate. Below is the first place winner from last year. Entries from the contest are on the campaign’s YouTube channel and have all received thousands of views.
(7) The American Farmland Trust, Best Farmers Markets campaign, was quite a success! The campaign utilized online and offline techniques, and also capitalized on the National Farmers Market Day to help drive traffic to the campaign.
“The contest is designed to raise national awareness about the importance of supporting fresh food from local farms and farmers. Market shoppers will vote to support their favorite farmers market starting June 1 until midnight on August 31, 2010. People can vote for as many participating farmers markets as they choose, but can only vote for each market once.”
Accountability: Farm to Home
(8) Findthefarmer.com is a website to promote and support the Stone –Buhr, all-purpose flour company. This website promotes the highest level of accountability and actually lets consumers go online, and based on the “Best By Date” printed on the bag, determine which farmer grew the wheat in their bag of flour. The website shows which part of the country the wheat was grown, and it also features a “meet the farmer” feature with videos featuring the actual farmers.
“Stone-Buhr has created a simple, easy-to-use website for you to locate the family farms that grow the grain that we mill to make your flour. A family farm is a farm owned and operated by a family, and passed down from generation to generation. We believe it is important to support these multi-generational farmers who are producing quality wheat in a responsible and sustainable manner.”
(9) Dole Organic Program is also allows consumers to “visit the farm” of where their food was produced by referencing the DPC sticker located on the purchased fruit. The website includes pictures of the farmers, a location of the farm on Google Earth, and even has copies of the farm’s USDA certificates (among others).
(10) The Kansas Beef Council partnered with the ResourcefulMommy blog to host and promote a Kansas Beef Council Twitter Party Thursday. This promotional/advocacy event was a great idea because it leveraged the network of the ResourcfulMommy blog to promote the beef industry through BBQ tips and tricks. Even though the event was a “Twitter party”, it featured recognized chefs and it also included prizes. In addition, all registrants are listed on the event page so people can connect with others who are interested in attending the event. Through the comment portion of on the event page, it is evident that the event was quite successful with almost 100 participants, and since the event is hosted online, all activity and conversation can be easily shared with each participant’s network. Events like these require little monetary resources and can be easily replicated to other outlets across the web.