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Published November 09, 2010, 08:33 AM

Social media can help agriculture tell its story

Social media present both opportunities and challenges for agriculture, say North Dakotans who attended a national conference on the subject.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Social media present both opportunities and challenges for agriculture, say North Dakotans who attended a national conference on the subject.

“There’s so much to learn. But there’s so much potential, too,” says Sarah Wilson, Young Farmers and Ranchers Program Coordinator for the state Farm Bureau.

She, Coleharbor farmer Paul Anderson and Monango farmer Val Wagner attended Agvocacy 2.0, a two-day seminar in Chicago sponsored by the AgChat Foundation.

About 50 people from around the country participated in the seminar. They represented a wide range of agricultural interests, including big and small farms, conventional and organic farms and beef, dairy, fruit wheat and corn.

The nonprofit foundation was created by famers and others in agriculture to better tell their point of view, using social media resources such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

AgChat Foundation’s goal is “putting a face back on the plate,” Jeff Fowle, a California farmer and rancher and president of the AgChat Foundation, says on a video on the AgChat website.

People in agriculture frequently use social media to communicate with friends and acquaintances in farming, Wilson says.

But it’s vital to use social media to spread agriculture’s story outside the industry, especially to urban residents with little or no direct connection to agriculture, Wilson says.

The Chicago seminar was intended for people who want to get to “the next level” in doing that, she says.

Topics at the seminar included Twitter applications, blogging tips, Facebook strategies and video production.

A blog, or web log, is a sort of online diary. One of the blogging tips that Wilson picked up:

A blog entry “doesn’t have to be thorough or long. Just keep it consistent. Write a few lines every few days,” she says.

Other good advice came on making the best use of Twitter, given its 140-character limit, she says.

Twitter allows users to send and read other users’ messages, known as tweets.

Anderson says it’s virtually impossible to keep up on all the trends and changes in social media.

But farmers and others in ag can find practical ways of tapping social media, he says.

“It can really help get out our message,” he says.

Information: www.agchat.org.

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