Promoting Your Farm & Agriculture With Blogs

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Not all photos must be serious. Some 'fun' photos help relate to readers too.

Not all photos must be serious. Some ‘fun’ photos help relate to readers too.

Today’s consumer is often far removed from the farm. They moved away, have kids of their own or sometimes it’s their parents that moved away and the kids never see food grown. The disconnect is pronounced but as agvocates take to social media it’s easy for people to connect with farms. Farmers can make use of this form of social media in several ways.

Many of these are with video, while others are written. Some share photos and some include all of these as a means to show their story. From beef cattle to dairies to cotton fields to the infinite expanse of agriculture farmers are blogging to tell their story. There are a great many bloggers in the ag world seeking to connect with customers far removed from the farm.

Farmers may share terminology and general farm and food education. Favorite recipes, food polls (especially involving the food they produce!) and day to day operations are favorite fodder for ag blogs.

A blog gives a more detailed look, a bigger chance to connect with others than Twitter or Facebook. Popular and easy to use blog hosts include Blogger and WordPress. Once set up you add information daily, a few times per week or weekly.

The big thing about blogs is make it personal. Each person needs to find what works for them but be real. Don’t just say what you do – explain in layman’s terms why you do it. Some blogs are 150-200 words per post while others are typically 300-400 words.

The use of keywords can help your blog rank higher. This is a word or phrase that people might look for on Google or other search engines. Work the keyword into the title and a few times in the body of the post.

While information is important keeping your blog interesting keeps people coming back. One way to do this is follow animals from newborn to adulthood – posting treatments, what they’re eating, why you do what you do with them.

Engage your audience. Ask questions. If you’re a dairy farmer talk about milk, then ice cream and what kind is the reader’s favorite. One blog took a look back at baby bunnies, growing up and eventually the baby bunnies from a doe the readers saw grow up. Chicks are another option from day old to layers.

Look for seasonal topics. Show the equipment you use and what it’s for. The possibilities in blogging are endless! Show what the animals eat and tell how you take care of them. Think like a 5 year old – why do you do something? What is that? Basics from ear tags and tattoos to fairs and issues are all topics.

Above all else talk with your reader not at them. Draw them in, encourage them to come back with “mini-series” or other regular features. This need not take a great deal of time and can use photos from inexpensive digital cameras or even your cell phone.

Telling your ag story is easier than ever with today’s social media tools. A farm blog can teach more people than you could accommodate on your farm. Make it count…make it personal.

  • Engage your readers.
  • Make it personal.
  • Explain in easy to understand language.

Farmers Reach Out with Twitter

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President of AgChat Foundation Jeff VanderWerf, right, with Secretary Ryan Weeks. Photo by Board Director Jan Hoadley commemorating $50,000 raised to help ranchers after Atlas

On April 7, 2009 the first #agchat was held for those in agriculture to discuss issues on Twitter. By the summer of 2010 over 2,500 people from four continents and eight countries have participated in AgChat and the ‘sister chat’, #Foodchat held the third Tuesday of each month. In the time since, several worldwide efforts have been made including helping to raise over $50,000 for ranchers affected by Atlas storm.

Over 800 farmers are listed in the database of Twitter’s follow a farmer listing. Several of these farmers knew all had stories so organized the AgChat Foundation. Seeking to reach out and empower others in the agriculture community with more effective tools, the first Agvocacy 2.0 Conference was held in August 2010 with 50 participants and 30 volunteers traveling from coast to coast and border to border to Chicago. In August the conference will be over 100 people, with a larger focus on broadening our reach.

Twitter is a forum that some find more difficult to use in it’s brevity, but those brief comments, or Tweets, of under 140 characters make it ideal to agvocate. It allows the sharing of tidbits of information, photographs from the farm and telling others why we do what we do.

“Oh but people don’t care about what happens on my farm!” Yes they do! As food recalls increase, sensationalized videos come to the media and people are told we should fear our food people DO care what is happening on our farms! They want to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, what we see and glimpses of our life that is more than just work.

As people learn small things about what we do it takes away the fear. Many do not know what we do to care for the environment around us until we show them. Knowledge is power and for far too long we have let others tell our story.

With Twitter because it is short bits of information farmers can text with their cell phone and share a new calf, status of fields or what the day’s chores hold for you. Still there are some important tips, shared at the first Agvocacy 2.0 Conference by California rancher Jeff Fowle and dairy farmer Ray Prock.

Be yourself is important. Find common interests with others and expand your communication circle. This can be effective to find others in agriculture but ultimately social media is a great tool to connect with consumers.

It appeals to the social nature of people to connect with others. One key point is talking *with* someone not *at* them. We aren’t giving lectures!

Describe honestly what you do from your perspective. Beware of too much unnecessary information. What you had for lunch most probably don’t care about! Nor do most care how much your power bill is or other personal information. However, where it applies to food production it may be relevant.

Basic etiquette is important If someone posts something you want to share – or Re-Tweet – an RT in front of the message copies it word for word. If you change the message or drop words out relay it as “via (whomever)” to give credit.

Twitter is primarily to communicate rather than self promotion. Engage people! Share a blog, an online article relevant to your farm, respond to your followers. If you are new post a few times with an introduction to #AgChat and you will likely meet plenty of people willing to help you along.

Other hash tags direct your messages to groups of interested people that may not follow you directly. A few of these might be #food #meat #dairy or #farm. Have an avatar to make it personal.

Use caution connecting with other social tools to your Twitter account Some can hijack your account or flood with unwanted messages.

If we don’t tell our story others will. Twitter can be a great tool to connect with and educate the majority of the people who eat every day. Make it interesting and social media need not take a great deal of time if managed just like other farm chores.

Tips to Make Your Blog More Visual

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This was written for an agriculture audience, but is very applicable to rabbits as well.

Many in agriculture have been inspired to tell their story through groups like the AgChat Foundation. So you’ve decided you’re interested, you have a digital camera or video capability but what next?

In either case be aware of lighting. Too dark photos don’t show your topic off well. Remember that with camera settings they see the light as it is rather than adjusting as our eyes do. Sometimes photos late in the evening can look like it’s dark.

At the same time lighting can be a factor during the strong light of mid day – if you’re shooting livestock this can bring unwanted shadows. For other things, such as a combine or tractor in the field, bright light can be a good thing. If your image has a lot of white – such as Charolais cattle, sheep, white rabbits or some dairy cattle – you might get better results in the morning before 10 or so or in the afternoons after 4 – this allows you to position so the light is behind you. This also comes into play if you’re shooting winter pictures with snow that reflects light.

If you’re shooting a video beware of movement. If you’re walking to the barn and multitasking it may save you time but changing backgrounds can leave some viewers dizzy! Background is also important for still photos – with people and livestock pay attention to background so there’s no poles, trees or other objects appearing to come from the subject’s head!

Know when to come in close and when to back off. A field at harvest or planting may warrant a ‘big’ shot while one of a baby chick or an ear of corn means getting close. For close up shots use the macro setting on the digital camera – there’s a setting often depicted with a little flower, then you scroll to adjust and the lens will zoom in on tight shots like an ear of corn. Be sure to change it back so your other shots aren’t fuzzy! Also with macro shots it’s even more important to shoot steady. A blurred image can result from unsteady hands so brace yourself on a doorway, ledge or other solid surface if you have to.

For video consider an inexpensive tripod that eliminates all ‘bounce’ from your final video. As much as can be watch the noise interference in the sound and pick a video location that is quiet enough to hear what you’re saying. There may be some situations – such as dairy calves bawling at feeding time that it can be a benefit but mostly you want the viewer to be able to hear you!

Good photos show off your farm and are not difficult to get. It allows transparency without trespass. Farmers and agvocates need to be a part of the conversation about food and farming. Photos and videos are a way to do that in a very visible way.

  • agchat.org/
  • www.trufflemedia.com/home/blogs/trufflemediaadmin
  • www.causematters.com/
    • Pay attention to lighting and background.
    • Use a mix of “big” and close up shots depending on your subject.
    • Use photos in combination with other social media – blogs, Twitter, Facebook

    Did you know photos and videos allow consumers to see farming as it is, and allows for increased transparency between farm and consumer’s plates. It’s a way to share the world of agriculture with consumers.

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