In a world where social media dominates our lives, one commonly misunderstood industry strives to stand out and change the conversation.
Agriculture is the driving force behind feeding the world. Since the rise of social media, this industry has been trying to inform the public, defend its practices, and express to the consumers the importance of agriculture. In terms of getting our information to the public, I think we are doing a great job. Over the past years, I have seen the amount of positive impact that one post can have. Despite the negative and misguided attacks on our industry by people who are four or five generations removed from the farm, there has been a surge of people who come and defend our stance. The agriculture industry is more advanced than most people may give us credit for. Farmers can now run a combine powered by GPS, and log onto Facebook and make a positive difference.
“Social media has changed even in the last year, even in the last six months,” said Sami Jo Freeman, the Missouri Department of Agriculture communications administrator. “I think agriculture has done a pretty good job of moving and pivoting with those changes to make sure we are communicating great things to our consumers.”
Each social media platform reaches different audiences through different media.
“For working on Instagram, that’s our young leader demographic for our 4-H and FFA kids,” Freeman said. “If we have breaking news or something industry focused that does well on Twitter, that’s our professional audience. When it comes to Facebook, we are looking at success targeting our consumer group.”
With new advancements in social media, Freeman and her team can target consumers in more urban areas to share information about the safety of their food. Agriculture is always under attack for one thing or another, but Freeman said that those contradictory and negative opinions shouldn’t keep the industry from sharing positive messages.
Though the impact made is not written in black and white, this should not discourage the efforts from taking place. This industry has advanced in leaps and bounds from the beginning of social media and it is something we should be proud of. In the realm of social media, measuring the impact of our words and messages can be hard to judge. But, the Missouri Department of Agriculture has plans in action for the future and isn’t swayed by the contradictory statements made by the opposing views of anti-agriculture groups.
“If there is one thing that we would like to add to our toolbox it is some more measurables about what is actually making a difference,” Freeman said. “But I don’t think the inability to measure those effects is going to keep us from doing it.”
The MDA believes that the growth of agricultural social media will only go up from where we are because they are following in the footsteps of their director, Chris Chinn. According to Freeman, Chinn was one of those original founders of ag social media and has worked to bridge the gap between the consumers and producers.
Freeman believes the best thing that young people can do to help is to spread their own stories of agriculture. The future of any industry is the younger generation. I think that this next generation of agriculturists will change the way we communicate and finally break through to the public. At MDA, they are focused on helping the next leaders of agriculture spread our message.
Sharing the message of agriculture has become increasingly important in today’s world. Social media is a valuable and resourceful platform to reach all audiences. We have done a tremendous job of communicating this positive image of agriculture, but there is still much that can be done. With the efforts of all advocates of the industry, we can alter many of the misconceptions of agriculture that have done damage to the industry’s image.