When it comes to growing things farmers definitely know what they are doing. So, it makes sense they would see the value of growing a social media network to promote their business, connect with suppliers and in general, develop a better communication network.
Social media is not just a tool for urban dwellers. Sure, in the city you can connect with other users about cool places to eat, or the latest shows, or big sales that might be going on at the local mall.
In rural areas social media can also be a tool. It will help you know how the season is turning out for the crops you planted, new tools and technology to help you reap a better harvest and where to find the freshest produce markets for localvores.
Farmers are growing to love social media. It can tackle rural isolation, get you closer to your customers, give you a direct line to politicians and policy-makers and help tell the true story of farming. In the first part of our social media special, Madeleine Lewis explores how blogs, Twitter and Facebook are opening windows of opportunity for farmers around the world.
She grew up on a dairy farm, bought her first calf when she was seven, and her husband’s a dairy nutritionist. So when Michele Payn-Knoper was stumped by her Holstein dairy calf not weaning, she did what any self-respecting 21st-century dairy person would: she went onto Twitter to get some advice.
Within 20 minutes she had six ideas. One of them (to put grain directly into the milk) solved the problem and, one year on, her calf has just been bred – a social media success story.
Michele is the founder of AgChat, a moderated Twitter discussion that takes place every Tuesday night. Since its creation in 2009, nearly 10,000 people from 10 countries have attached the hashtag #agchat to their tweets, or joined in to discuss issues and share ideas around food and farming.
It’s a long way from the perception that Twitter is “just about what people are having for lunch”, and, with use of the platform growing at over 1,000% a year, it doesn’t seem to be going away. The majority of farmers (56%) are now using the internet, according to the National Farm Research Unit’s 2010 survey.
Phil Gorringe – aka “FarmrPhil” on Twitter – runs a mixed farm in Herefordshire. It’s the most sparsely populated county in England, with the fourth lowest population density. For people living and working there permanently, especially farmers working out in the fields most of the day – often alone – that can be isolating.
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