Farmers and Technology: Staying Connected on the Farm and Agvocating to Consumers

Written by Wanda Patsche

I will be the first to admit that I am an electronic device “junkie!” I own and use a desktop computer, laptop computer, iPad, Kindle and iPhone. And, yes at times, I do use more than one device at the same time!

Computers have been a huge part of my life and there is no such thing as too many electronic devices in my mind. And when it comes to farming apps, I am not the only farmer who uses electronic devices. According to USA Today, Float Mobile Learning, a consulting firm that develops mobile strategies and apps for major agricultural organizations and Fortune 500 companies, has used previous market research to determine that in 2012, 94 percent of farmers owned a smartphone or a mobile phone. That is up from 48 percent in 2011 and 10 percent in 2010.

Farmers love technology

According to a Verizon manager that spoke at a recent agriculture conference, there is no other profession that uses technology more than the ag community does. So how do farmers use technology? There are two ways:

The first is electronic technology in farm implements and smartphone apps that directly assist farmers in their profession. The second way is farmers using smartphones and iPads for agvocacy using social media.

Farmers are reaping enormous benefits using electronic technology. Here are just a few specific ways farmers use smartphones or iPads to help them with their day-to-day activities.  And I will admit, I have used them all!

  • Markets and commentaries
  • Weather forecasts and radar maps
  • Create To Do Lists
  • Camera
  • Twitter – Follow people, #hashtags or ag conferences
  • General ag information apps such as Farm Futures or ProFarmer
  • Email
  • Livestream conferences
  • Podcasts
  • Company specific apps
  • Internet searches
  • Flashlight (Yes, one of my favorite apps!)

Farmers literally have the whole world of information in their shirt pockets. They can find information about anything, anywhere, at anytime. Never in history have farmers had this much information so easily available.

The other way farmers use electronic devices is for social media agvocacy. Farmers are facing a different type of consumer today. Consumer wants to know how their food is raised or grown — they want transparency. Because of the Internet and the amount and ease of information at everyone’s fingertips, it should be no surprise consumers want to know more about what they are eating. We, as farmers, need to step up to the plate and start having conversations with them. Social media is a great avenue to reach a large and diverse group of people.

I attended the AgChat Conference on August 22-23, 2013 in Charlotte, NC. AgChat is a conference where agriculture and social media come together. Many of the top ag social media users were in Charlotte, which enabled the rest of us to network and learn from the best. Everyone left the conference more knowledgeable and maybe more important – inspired!

Wanda attended the AgChat conference in Charlotte, NC earlier this month.

We in agriculture are seeing a big disconnect between farmers and consumers. We are between two and four generations removed from the farm. The general public has very little idea what agriculture is about. Food is cheap and plentiful and everyone takes it for granted. And because of that disconnect and lack of knowledge, we have the perfect breeding ground for misunderstanding and misinformation in agriculture. Meeting face-to-face with people is great, but with only 2 percent of us farming, there are only so many people we can reach. Social media gives farmers an opportunity to reach a larger and more diverse audience.

So what can farmers do to start a consumer outreach effort using social media?

  • Create a facebook page for your farm. Create your own farm community where you can talk about what you do on your farm and why you do it.
  • Create a Twitter account – follow hashtags, which will enable you  to answer questions or concerns consumers may have about their food.
  • Start a blog. A blog is an online diary. A blog is another way to create a community by talking about what is happening on your farm. Take pictures and/or video to show what you do on your farm.

You don’t have to do all it all, but it’s important you do something. Set aside 15 minutes a day to engage with consumers through social media. Remember, it takes ALL our voices to tell our story! And if we don’t tell it, someone else will and we probably won’t like their version.

Wanda Patsche farms corn, soybeans and hogs in Southern Minnesota. You can reach Wanda on Facebook, Twitter or at her Minnesota Farmer blog. Wanda is also a Common Ground volunteer.

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