Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Just in from the American Farm Bureau

Stallman: Farmers must connect

Madison--American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman thinks American farmers need to do a better job connecting with consumers.

Stallman thinks farmers and ranchers have stayed in the shadows too long, because a new generation of Americans don't know where their food comes from, he thinks consumers need to be satisfied.

"Farmers in the information age also must engage consumers so they can learn about food production and develop or maintain trust with farmers who produce their food,"Stallman said. “All of us in agriculture have a responsibility to share our story,” Stallman said at the AFBF public relations conference in Madison. “We need to make a connection with the public.”

Stallman thinks consumers trust farmers but don't understand the industry because the U.S. population continues to become more urban and detatched from farming.

According to the AgChat Foundation, a vast majority of Americans no longer have a connection to agriculture, The foundation was created in April to empower farmers to tell their stories to consumers.

Farmers and Ranchers formed the AgChat Foundation to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers. Their goal is to equip producers with social media skills like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, so they can tell their own story directly to to tell their story.

The AgChat Foundation will host its first training session Aug. 30 and 31 in Chicago. For more information visit the website http://agchat.org.

“Social media platforms are delivering the non-farmer to the farm,” said Tricia Braid Terry, communications director for the Illinois Corn Growers Association/Marketing Board, during a presentation at the AFBF conference.
“Social media might seem mysterious and elusive but what it boils down to is just an online conversation,” she continued. “I’m talking about moving your coffee shop talk to your laptop.”

Facebook currently has 450 million users while Twitter is adding a reported 300,000 new users per day and last week had a total of 106 million users.

“Social media give us an opportunity to reach younger demographics,” Stallman said. “Those younger demographics will be the ones (in the future) making decisions that affect American agriculture.”

But social media isn’t just a fad or limited to younger people. The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55 to 65-year-old women, according to Terry, who serves on the AgChat Foundation board.

Social media “are communications tools that must not be ignored,” Terry added. “This is a case where putting your head in the sand just isn’t going to cut it.”

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