Tractor Tweeting – The Rise of Social Media
Farmers are not nearly as isolated from the rest of the world as they were in the past. With social media, such as Twitter, it is possible to get answers to questions, help with concerns and virtually any other advice needed. There are even discussions springing up that are focused on caring for the animals that live on the farms. One such discussion, AgChat, was founded by a British farmer, Michele Payn-Knoper. The idea for the discussion started when she went to Twitter to obtain advice about a Holstein dairy calf that was not weaning. The advice she got worked and now the discussion is ongoing every Tuesday night. Since its beginning in 2009, the discussion has grown to include ten countries with 10,000 people sharing and exchanging ideas about farming and other related issues.
For those who live in very rural areas, this is a beneficial discussion group that can help with the isolation that exists in many areas. For example, Phil Gorringe, who is “FarmrPhil” on Twitter. He lives in Herefordshire, England, a very thinly populated area. Social media is a way of reducing the feelings of isolation that result in living in areas that do not have a large population. Being able to share problems and assist others with problems they are experiencing makes a difference.
England is not the only place that ‘tractor tweeting’ is taking place. A dairy farmer in Alabama, Will Gilmer and Ryan Bright in Tennessee communicate via Twitter. Sharing their milking and breeding experiences and the location of equipment that is needed is a benefit. Not only does social media provide support for the farmers, but it is a way of finding equipment that is needed by consumers.
Phil Gorrginge and his wife Heather, have a mail order business in England called Wiggly Wigglers. Heather lists items on her Facebook and this results in several orders in a matter of only an hour or two. This is becoming a way of advertising that is quite cost effective, especially for small businesses.
A challenge remains for social media which includes farming. Managing the information for the best use is the focus. Since social media can result in information overload, creating a central area for obtaining information about many aspects of farming is in the works. Farming Futures is one social media blog that was started about a year ago to make information more accessible.