Saturday, January 28, 2012
Electronic gadgets like smartphones and tablets are becoming almost as standard on the farm as tractors and combines.
Young Kansas producers in Wichita this weekend for the Kansas Farm Bureau's Young Farmers and Ranchers Leaders Conference, spent Saturday morning discussing how best to use social media on their operations.
"Like they say, first impressions matter a lot," said Washington County dairy producer Kyler Ohlde. "As easy as it is to to get information with all these resources, it's very easy to be misled."
Ohlde and his family are among the growing number of agricultural producers turning to social media to reach out to consumers. He and other members of the Young Farmers and Ranchers program discussed social media strategies, ranging from using social media for marketing farm products to combating negative perceptions created when a few producers don't follow accepted practices.
One of the way the Ohlde family tries to combat those perceptions is by posting photos and videos online of the winter care provided to dairy calves.
"You see some different comments like, 'Oh, that's cute,' or, 'That's a good idea,'" Ohlde said.
Producers also say social media can be a valuable tool for helping people not directly involved with the industry understand issues that ultimately affect consumers, such as last year's drought.
"It's pretty easy to read about drought," said Sedgwick County Farmer Jeff Winter. "But it's not too hard to go take a picture of how dry it is; show them the moisture profile and how low the moisture is in the soil. You can post that on Facebook pretty easy."
Though the emphasis this weekend is on young producers and social media, industry veterans are just as plugged-in, and they recognize social media as a powerful tool for communicating with policy makers.
"We text and e-mail and social media - all those different facets - with the politicians and, in particular, with their staff," said Kansas Farm Bureau President Steve Baccus.
Of course, young producers have also adopted social media as a way to keep up with each other.
"It's been interesting with my friends from college and stuff," Winter said. "To be on Facebook, take a picture from the tractor cab and see what somebody else is doing or see how better technology is working."