Online initiative gets folks talking

Agricultural experts | Farmers of Canada 
invite guest hosts to tweet about their work

Farrowing technician Kendra Leslie tweeted a flurry of cute pig pictures as her last official job as guest host of the Farmers of Canada twitter site.

Tweeting pictures of newborn piglets, studly boars, relaxed mothers and a group of weaners heading down the hall was Leslie’s way of helping the public learn more about the industry she loves.

“I really love my job. I love pigs and I love talking to people about pigs,” said Leslie of Paisley, Ont., after retiring from her week as guest host of the twitter site.

“Pigs are so curious about everything. They’re smart, curious animals.”

During her week as twitter host, Leslie answered questions from followers about biosecurity in barns, inducing labour in sows and the need for air fresheners in her vehicle.

“It’s a glimpse of what I do every day,” said Leslie, a farrowing technician in a 2,500-head southwestern Ontario pig barn.

“It’s a more realistic view of what goes on and not an extreme view.”

Starting a conversation about agriculture is the goal of the Farmers of Canada twitter account, said founder Meaghan Thornhill of Antigonish, N.S.

The Ontario city girl turned Nova Scotia dairy farmer hopes the new rotational twitter site, with new hosts each week, will give Canadians a glimpse into the life of farmers.

“I want to get the message out there about agriculture,” said Thornhill, who hosted the account the first week and tweeted about her Jersey and Holstein dairy farm.

Thornhill tweeted a picture of a milk truck picking up milk, which she thought was a fairly ordinary event. However, a follower from Newfoundland tweeted back that she was so impressed with the cleanliness of the milk truck she would keep drinking that brand of milk.

“The connection was so random as the cleanliness of the truck,” said Thornhill.

Another person asked about hormones in milk, and Thornhill tweeted back that no artificial growth hormones are used in Canadian dairy cattle.

The Swedish government started the first rotating twitter account. New hosts each week tweet about their life and activities in Sweden.

David Meister, a hobby farmer from Nova Scotia, tweeted in week three of the Canadian project about his dual life with a job in Halifax and a small scale farm an hour away. Thornhill hopes to shine a light on hobby farmers, considering that many urban residents believe all farms are large scale.

“We live in our individual bubble. It’s important for everyone involved in agriculture to know how everything is done in the other sectors,” she said.

Since starting her personal twitter account a year ago, Thornhill has helped dispel dairy myths among her friends and made friends within the dairy industry across Canada.

It’s not uncommon for Thornhill to tweet a question about dairy nutrition or breeding and instantly receive an answer from her twitter followers.

“It has made me more involved in the dairy industry. It’s easy to stay in the barn and not read the industry publications. I have made so many friends in the dairy industry.”

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