Farmers Learn Facebook and Twitter to Reach Out to Consumers

November 22, 2010 at 3:32 pm 1 comment

From The Sacramento Bee:

It wasn’t discussions of sustainability, irrigation techniques or cattle breeds that had dozens of farmers busily scribbling notes in Davis on Saturday. It was the intricacies of hashtags, followers and status updates that pulled them out of their fields and into classrooms for a 21st century addendum to the agricultural revolution.

“It’s all about putting a face on that plate,” said Jeff Fowle, who raises cattle, horses and hay on a 640-acre ranch in Siskiyou County.

“I want to be the face when a family is sitting down to a dinner of Hamburger Helper.

About 80 people attended the full-day workshop on social media for farmers – hosted by the University of California, Davis – to help an aging farming population communicate directly with their consumers through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

“The economic edge for farming can be very narrow,” said organizer Annie King, a professor of animal science at UC Davis. “This is a way farmers can tell the story of their family farms and how they get food on the table.”

The disconnect between growers and the general public became apparent after the passage of Proposition 2 in 2008, which set standards for the confinement of farm animals, Fowle said. Some farmers felt their voices were lost in the conversation with no direct channels of communication with voters, he said.

Fowle created a Twitter account the following year and now has almost 25,000 followers. He also co-founded www.agchat.org, a non-profit group that hosts online discussions every Tuesday about agricultural policy and other issues.

“If you know the person who is growing your food and you develop a relationship with them, it’s hard to be mad at them,” he said.

Cowboy hat-wearing ranchers and sun-creased farmers learned the basics of opening Facebook and Twitter pages as well as more technical instruction such as how to optimize searches during the workshop.

Ray Allen Jr., a retired horse and cattle rancher who lives in San Luis Obispo County, will likely leave the social networking to younger generations but took away tools about messaging – especially vital because less than 2 percent of the country’s population remains in agriculture, he said.

“In my generation and certainly my father’s generation, you had a rural population where practically everyone was related in one form or another to food production,” he said. “We don’t have that anymore.”

Read the rest of the article at: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/11/21/3201217/farmers-learn-facebook-and-twitter.html#ixzz162rVnN7u

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