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More farms embrace social media focus

CHICAGO, Ill. — If you want to generate traffic on your social media platform, post a picture of a Jersey cow wagging its tongue, or better yet a tractor, any tractor.

“People love equipment like gangbusters,” said Kassi Tom-Rowland, a partner with Tom Farms, a row crop farm in Leesburg, Indiana.

Tom-Rowland was part of a panel discussing social media tips at the 2017 DTN Ag Summit.

Farms are increasingly turning to social media to combat myths, find employees and landlords and to simply interact with their surrounding communities.

Natasha Mortenson, a partner in Riverview LLC, a crop, beef and dairy farm in Morris, Minnesota, said they got on social media when the farm became so big that they couldn’t avoid it anymore.

She posts every day but Sunday. Videos generate a lot more viewer response than photos or text-based posts. One tool she uses is an app called Hyperlapse.

“That one will take a really long video and make it super fast because people don’t want to watch your video for five minutes. They want to watch it for 30 seconds or less,” said Mortenson.

Another video app is Boomerang, which creates mini-videos that loop back and forth. She showed one of a Jersey cow with a long tongue swishing from side to side over and over again.

“Jersey cows are really weird and they do tongue things, so we post tons of these pictures and people just think they’re great,” she said.

Mortenson said it is important to think about what could go wrong when shooting video or going live on Facebook.

“You’ve got to show a clean site. If you have crap sitting in the corner you’ve got to move it. You do not want farms to look like dirty or grungy places,” she said.

Mortenson was surprised how many land deals have been generated by simply posting a map of the farm’s land locations. Landowners have come out of the woodwork with offers.

Elizabeth Jack, a partner in Silent Shade Planting Co., a row crop farm in Belzoni, Mississippi, rolled her eyes when her husband asked her to develop a social media presence for the farm.

“(I was) thinking, ‘how am I going to get a picture every day? What am I going to post about? And who’s going to care what we’re doing on our little farm,’ ” she said.

But the process hasn’t been nearly as onerous and time-consuming as she initially thought. Best of all it is free publicity.

“We kind of wanted to debunk what you hear about commercial farming and show that we’re a family farm,” said Jack.

She concentrates on posts that show they care about the safety and quality of the food they produce and about water conservation.

Jack also tries to educate by including the occasional tidbit like pointing out how a 60 cents per bushel drop in soybean prices on Aug. 12 cost their farm $39,000.

“I don’t try to just drill them constantly with agriculture facts but I do try to slip it in,” she said.

Kasey Bryant, partner in Bryant Agricultural Enterprises, a row crop farm in Washington Court House, Ohio, wanted to develop a social media presence on her farm.

Her epiphany happened on a trip to Hawaii with the in-laws where she came across a food stand selling “non-GMO” slushies, hot dogs and candy bars.

“My husband is a super quiet guy and he’s like, ‘don’t go over there. Do not go over there.’ And I was like, ‘oh, I’m going over there,’ ” said Bryant.

In the end she thought better of it because the stand operator was a teenager but it got her thinking about what their farm could do to help stop the spread of misinformation.

Upon return from Hawaii she approached her dad about expanding their online presence.

“His first response was, ‘absolutely not.’ ”

Eventually, he came around but he wanted to know who was going to be the target audience. Bryant wanted to target anybody and everybody but her father talked her into focusing on the local community, the next generation of employees, land partners and lenders.

Videos and pictures about using new technologies on the farm proved popular.

“But we quickly noticed that a lot of people’s interest lied in the history of our operation,” said Bryant.

Likes and comments went way up when posts about new technologies were accompanied by photos of how her grandfather farmed years ago.

Social media has proven to be an excellent tool for recruiting workers for their operation.

Tom-Rowland is shocked that her farm’s Instagram site has attracted 28,800 followers.

She uses Buffer, a social media management platform that allows her to send posts simultaneously to all her social media platforms.

Tom-Rowland said it is important for farms to tell their own stories, whether it is agvocating or talking about blowing an engine in a seed corn picker.

“Not everything you post has to be positive like unicorns and butterflies,” she said.

Mortenson said it is common to get negative comments, especially for livestock operations.

“It’s usually something you would never expect for anyone to even think of,” she said.

She recently posted a picture of heifer calves getting loaded on a trailer headed for New Mexico.

“Somebody wrote a comment, ‘are those calves going to die?’ I hid it but then I did say, ‘nope. These cows are being transported to New Mexico to live in the sunshine and get out of Minnesota winters.’ And then that person said, ‘oh, that’s awesome. Lucky calves.’ ”

She prefers to hide posts instead of deleting them because the poster still sees their comment but nobody else does.

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