Some farmers are getting into social media

Oct 12, 2009

The Fresno Bee reported this morning that farmers are beginning to use social media to communicate with each other and with consumers. The story opens with Kings County dairy operator Barbara Martin, who films herself with a hand-held video camera out on the dairy and posts her messages regularly on a blog, "A Dairy Goddess."

Reporter Robert Rodriguez wrote that Martin writes the blog to dispel myths about farmers and encourage a greater understanding of the slumping dairy industry.

The article revealed an obstacle to the growth of social media in agriculture: many practitioners aren't computer savvy.

For example, the community supported agriculture business, McKellar's Family Farm Fresh, communicates with customers using Twitter, while 30-year farmer Bob McKellar doesn't really know how it's done.

"I have a computer and a cell phone, and to be honest with you I know very little about either one of them," McKellar was quoted. "But what I do know is that these new ways can help reach people like we haven't been able to do before."

Some may be slow to adopt, but when they do come onboard, they will be able to find relevant information. One example is a Twitter feed by UC Cooperative Extension viticulture specialist Matt Fidelibus and viticulture farm advisor Stephen Vasquez called "GrapeTweets." The feed includes useful and interesting 140-character tweets, such as these recent posts:

GrapeTweets already has 130 followers, but Fidelibus acknowledges the information isn't reaching a critical mass of UCCE's viticulture clientele yet.

"The demographic of the raisin farmers we deal with is skewed more toward older growers, so we are not sure if they use this sort of technology or not," Fidelibus was quoted in the story. "But if we can dispel some of the myths about using Facebook and Twitter, then the potential to reach people could be huge."

UC ANR also has a page on Facebook and a number of active ag-related blogs, including:

Bug Squad, Happenings in the Insect World
Woody Biomass, News and information on woody biomass utilization in California
Postharvest Postings, Postharvest News & Updates from the University of California

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By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist