Thursday, January 13, 2011

Agriculture's Brave New World


Social Media Helps Farmers Connect With Consumers


ATLANTA, January 12, 2011 – Farmers and ranchers attending the Grassroots Engagement with Social Media issues conference at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 92nd annual meeting picked up pointers on how to effectively share their stories and connect with non-farmers.


During a fast-paced presentation, rancher Jeff Fowle and organic dairy farmer Emily Zweber outlined how they have used social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and LinkedIn to connect with non-farmers. Both strongly emphasized the importance of the “human element” and the need to be genuine when using social media or else any attempts are destined to fail.


“Keep it relevant and simple, and make it personal,” Fowle advised when it comes to using social media to forge connections with people interested in learning about how their food is grown. Accomplished on several platforms, he describes Facebook as “social media on training wheels” and a good place for newbies to get started.


Zweber said scheduling time for social media “like any other farm task” and viewing it as a component of an overall marketing strategy has paid off. In addition to organic milk, she and her husband, Tim, raise beef, pork and chickens for direct marketing.


“People do care about what we do on the farm. Everything we do is interesting to non-farmers,” Zweber said.


Dan Toland of the public relations staff at Ohio Farm Bureau and Mace Thornton, deputy director of public relations at AFBF, also offered tips on getting started with social media and how this type of communication is being used by agriculture in general at the session.


Fowle is president of the Ag Chat Foundation, which strives to empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms. Fowle and Zweber, Farm Bureau members in California and Minnesota, respectively, were part of a squad of guest bloggers who posted their perspectives on events and activities in Atlanta to the AFBF Annual Meeting Blog on www.fb.org.


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