By Dana Shultz for Diets In Review | Photo via iStock
As social media continues to connect generations, cultures, businesses, consumers and really, the world over, there’s one demographic that seems to be left in the dust; literally. When it comes to being disconnected, farmers and ranchers seem the most likely candidates as the majority of what they do involves being outside, getting their hands dirty and being nowhere near a Twitter interface. (#sad)
However, a 2011 study from the American Farm Bureau Federation suggests that this is merely a case of misperception. Findings revealed that 98 percent of farmers and ranchers between the ages of 18 and 25 have internet access, and that 76 percent of that group use social media in some form.
Social media connections between farmers and consumers haven’t always existed, but they’re starting to happen more frequently thanks to organizations that recognize a need to bridge the gap.
One such organization is the AgChat Foundation, which provides education and resources designed to help farmers and ranchers gain the skills they need to connect with businesses, consumers and other farmers via social media. As reported by Mashable Business, the AgChat website acts as a platform to empower farmers to engage the outside world whether they need help establishing a Twitter presence, utilizing Facebook, or even starting a blog.
To stimulate discussion, AgChat hosts Twitter parties on a regular basis under the hashtag #AgChats, and they’ve become quite popular. The chats reportedly draw in more than 2,000 participants from seven countries and four continents on any given week. Moderated by an expert on the topic, discussions include such issues as how droughts have affected Midwest agriculture this year.
Another way social media has benefited farmers and ranchers is through websites like Kickstarter, which help inform people of a cause and then allow them to get behind it via donation. Maryland’s largest organic farm, One Straw Farm, is utilizing the virtual fundraising platform to help fund mobile apps that would connect farmers with consumers on a weekly basis throughout harvest season.
So how does this agricultural movement toward social media benefit you? For one, it provides opportunities to connect with farmers and ranchers in your area so you can buy local, support their farms, and stimulate your local economy.
Additionally, when farmers connect with other farmers via social media to share ideas and resources, it only further benefits individuals farms and consumers. After all, everybody wins if a better crop is produced.
Lastly, it gives farmers like Erin Ehnle, who blogs about her experience growing up and living on a farm, a chance to tell their story and get people engaged in what farming really looks like. Doing so only further connects people to the source of their food, which in turns fosters a greater appreciation for the farmers who grow it.
So while it may still seem social media and farming are worlds apart, this simply isn’t accurate anymore. And the closer the two become, the greater the benefit both farmers and consumers will continue to see.