If you are reading this blog, you already know about and are participating in social media. Chances are you are also aware of how popular social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogging (to name a few) have all become. But what can we do, as representatives of the agriculture industry, to make our use of social media more effective in reaching more diverse demographics and creating a positive image of the industry that we are all so passionate about?
Today, I watched a Ustream video on U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s website Food Dialogues. The live video stream today was called “Hollywood and “Vine”: The Intersection of Pop Culture and Food Production” and included representatives from both the agriculture and media industries. The discussion was largely based on how agriculture and the media need to work together to bring real facts and honest stories to the consumer. It was mentioned that the next generation of kids will be able to operate an iPad or laptop without any problem, but they won’t have a clue about where there food comes from. Examples from current “educational” cartoons were depictions of bulls with udders and an understanding that “if it has horns, it must be a bull.”
Most of you reading this (I hope) understand that those things are not true, but how are we ensuring that our kids know and understand these concepts? Another suggestion in the Food Dialogue was that agriculture needs to be a source for these materials. If we are making the cartoons and other informational outlets, we have control over the messages and information being presented to kids in our schools.
There is one thing in particular that stands out to me from the video stream: Social media is NOT a “magic cure-all” for agriculture’s challenges today. It is a tool, and if used correctly, it can make a big impact. When it comes to reaching a large and diverse audience and getting them to listen to your message, there is a right and a wrong way to use social media. Jeff Fowle, one of the panelists today, is a farmer/rancher who knows how to use social media effectively. He is one of the founders of the Ag Chat Foundation, which has this mission: “to empower farmers, ranchers and foresters to share their stories effectively through social media platforms.” More recently, he began the Just Farmer blog with a few other colleagues. This is a social media platform for dialogue between consumers and producers that has seen a lot of success.
Check out some of these organizations and ideas to learn more about how you can make better use of you social media skills to start more discussions about food production! My generation has already accepted and flocked to social media, now all you have to do is find a way to keep their attention and tell them your side of the story!