Trying to Connect with Farmers? Turn to Social Media

As one farmer recently captured on Twitter, farming has changed a lot over the years. Improvements to crop inputs like seed and fertilizer, equipment, software and data capture have revolutionized the way the world’s farmers produce our food. But one thing remains the same as it was 100 years ago—agriculture’s sense of community. And in our digital age, farmers have expanded from the coffee shop to Twitter.

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A 2015 survey by Meredith Agrimedia showed 57 percent of farmers go online every day, and 42 percent turn to social media for information on ag products and services. As more millennials become decision-makers on the farm, the latter percentage creeps higher – to the tune of 65 percent.

What was once a conversation over coffee is now an even broader shared experience, giving farmers the opportunity to celebrate the highs and navigate the lows with neighbors farming across the road and across the world. Take a look back at the farming community this spring when the Kansas wheat crop was hit with a devastating blizzard. Farmers took to social media to share updates on their fields, discuss where to go next and express support.

“What’s everyone’s thoughts on the wheat? Cow feed or cut it? This field of dryland was waist high headed. Now matted flat with heavy snow”

— Quentin Shieldknight (@QShieldknight) April 30, 2017

Throughout this fall’s harvest, farmers stayed in touch with each other’s progress using the popular hashtag #harvest17, which gives farmers a view to how harvest is going around the country. During the last three months, #harvest17 was used more than 77,000 times on Twitter and Instagram, garnering nearly 200 million impressions. And looking at the top 25 emojis used alongside the hashtag, I’d say harvest is wrapping up on a high note.

Top 25 emojis used alongside #harvest17
Word cloud generated from an analysis of #harvest17 use.

Through the entire growing season, the online farming community continues to thrive. Together, farmers troubleshoot and share best practices. Just ask Mike Lass, a farmer from South Plains, Texas, who tells me his favorite thing about Twitter in agriculture is “talking to people that are fighting the same battles that [he] fight[s] every day on the farm and ranch.”

But it’s not all business, of course. Plenty of social media activity is for pure entertainment, especially during long hours spent in the cab of a planter or combine or when Mother Nature delays field work.

Many farmers also use social media as a way to tell agriculture’s story to the world. It opens a crucial communications channel as the farm-to-fork movement gains popularity and consumers seek to learn more about their food.

As in other industries, social media is a connection tool. It offers anyone a look into agriculture’s network of engaged, passionate farmers. Try for yourself—read through #harvest17 tweets, subscribe to a farming YouTube channel or follow an agriculture Snapchat account. You’ll quickly feel like agriculture’s newest neighbor.

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