Agvocate urges uses of social media

February 10, 2011 at 11:06 am Leave a comment

From Agriculture Corner:

One of agriculture’s top young cheerleaders Wednesday urged farmers at the World Ag Expo to use social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs to talk to consumers about agriculture.

“You don’t have to write a book. You just have to say what you are doing,” said Amanda Radke, 23, of Mitchell, S.D., a former National Beef Ambassador and editor of Beef Daily, an online publication associated with Beef magazine.

Radke said that if farmers want to succeed at “agvocacy” — advocating for agriculture — “we have to change our approach to getting the message across.”

Farmers to Use social mediaFacebook and other social media are the quickest way for farmers to fight bad publicity, such as news reports or YouTube videos alleging animal cruelty, she said.

In 2006, at age 19, she caused a stir by organizing a walkout of a Carrie Underwood concert at the National FFA convention. Underwood is a supporter of the Humane Society of the United States, an animal welfare organization that has criticized “factory farming.”

“Their No. 1 mission is to abolish animal agriculture in this country,” Radke said bluntly to a receptive audience of about 20 farmers attending her “Taking it to the Street” address.

In a telephone interview later Wednesday, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States said Radke “doesn’t know the real work” of the organization.

For example, the Society backed legislation in California two years ago banning tail docking of cows, which was supported by mainstream farming organizations, Pacelle noted.

Face-to-face conversations with curious consumers are still the best way for farmers to tell people about agriculture, Radke said.

As a student at South Dakota State University, she was one of five college students nationwide to serve on the National Beef Ambassador team, giving speeches around the country.

Every farmer can be an ambassador, Radke said.

“We are good people,” she said. “We do take our animals’ well-being seriously.”

Farmer Bob Muelrath of Santa Rosa, who raises dairy heifers, said he’s been called “murderer” by animal rights demonstrators outside of cattle auctions.

“Don’t let people get in your face — get in their face and get armed with the facts,” Muelrath said.

Loren Kuipers of Stayton, Ore., who sells livestock feed supplements, said he’s taken up blogging to communicate with customers.

But keeping the general public informed about agriculture is a challenge for farming because “so many people don’t know what ag is,” Kuipers said.

One solution, he said: “Drive out and talk to a farmer — it doesn’t matter who — just get their side of the story.”

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