After five active years on social media, Sarah Schultz is becoming a woman of influence advocating for agriculture.
Her Nurse Loves Farmer blog, www.nurselovesfarmer.com, is gaining momentum as she goes to bat for genetically modified crops, defends wheat as part of a healthy diet and takes on big corporations like Starbucks and A&W restaurants.
All that happens from her family farm at Standard, Alta.
Schultz starting blogging in high school but that dropped off when she enrolled in nursing at the University of Alberta where she met her future husband Jay Schultz, who was studying agriculture.
She worked in nursing at the Stollery Children’s Hospital until the couple married seven years ago and moved to the farm where they work with Jay’s family on a 6,000 acre grain farm. They have two children, Braden, 4, and Ethan, 2.
As a new mother, she started to blog to get information and reach out to other young women.
“Life on the farm was always something I blogged about.”
Two years ago, Schultz saw Twitter messages about removing GM products from infant formula.
“Reading what they were spreading about getting GMOs out of formula, the more I learned, the more shocked I was about the message they were spreading in the parenting-mommy communities online,” she said.
Schultz posted a blog that defined GMOs and explained labelling requirements.
“I used to be more aggressive when I started out because it would just flat out tick me off that people were saying such awful things about modern agriculture practices. Now I have adapted the ‘kill them with kindness’, ” she said.
“I pick and choose my battles now.”
She does not address specific nutritional issues, preferring to do research before writing about trends like gluten free or raw vegan diets.
“I wanted to shed light that you don’t have to cut out entire food groups because you heard from the Wheat Belly book that gluten is toxic,” Schultz said.
Two years ago, she and Jay hired a professional videographer to do a time-lapse video of a wheat field from seeding to harvest. It received about 100,000 views and plenty of positive feedback, with a new video ready to be posted later this year.
“It is also an online heirloom to pass along to our family,” she said
As a busy mother and a part-time nurse at Strathmore, she tries to post two to four times each week.
“I used to think 500 unique visitors in a month was big time and now I am up to 25,000 a month,” she said.
Schultz and some friends also developed the website, www.askthefarmer.com, where people can ask farmers a question.
The online community is a relatively anonymous place but she has gone public.
Jay sits on the Alberta Wheat Commission and she joined him at the Calgary Stampede trade show booth to talk with people about agriculture.
Most recently, she attended a Food Bloggers of Canada conference in Vancouver with sponsorship from Manitoba Canola Growers.
She was nervous and did not know what to expect coming face to face with people she may have debated online.
“I definitely was scared about running into some of the people who have misconceptions about what we do on our farm and in modern agriculture,” Schultz said.
Conference sessions confirmed that people want to know more about food production and farmers.
Schultz believes social media may be the best way to deliver the message about food production and bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.
She would like more online connections for Canadians, citing the U.S. site, www.findourcommonground.com, which allows women in agriculture to talk with non-farmers about food production, animal welfare, prices, safety and farm life.
Schultz has also developed her own code of ethics online.
“I separate my career from what I write. I am a blogger who happens to be a nurse,” she said.
“In North America, everybody eats food three times a day and food is always going to be a hot topic so there will always be something to write about food and agriculture.”