Social media provides perfect showcase for farming

This is the first in a series of AgriCulture columns about farmers who use Instagram.

When Toban Dyck took off for downtown Toronto in the late 2000s, he didn’t glance back at the southern Manitoba farm he was leaving behind.

Now he can’t keep his eyes and cameras off of it.

“When I moved away I never thought I’d come back,” said Dyck, who returned to the family farm near Winkler in 2012.

“And then I came back and it all looked new to me. Everything was fresh.”

So he started showing it to the world on Instagram.

Dyck is one of the many farmers who have been drawn to the online social media platform, which is like a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook.

In the next few weeks I’m going to tell readers about a handful of Instagrammers I think do a great job of revealing the realities of farming and agriculture. I’m hoping it gives some of you a reason to check out Instagram and see how farming represents itself there, and that it gives others tips on people and accounts they might not know about. It’s just a taste of some of the people I follow.

I’m starting with Dyck, whose Instagram handle is @toban, because he has both personally bridged the farming and urban world and deliberately been trying to bridge the urban and rural worlds with his posts on Instagram.

Like many young people from farms, Dyck moved to the city (Winnipeg) for university, landed some good jobs and went bigger still. After working for CBC and doing some writing gigs in Winnipeg, he briefly worked for a newspaper in rural Alberta, and then moved out to Toronto with his wife, Jamie, where he managed to land a job as a copy editor with the National Post.

But the Prairies seemed to be calling the couple home, so they moved back to the farm and a world more beautiful than they recalled.

Dyck has been a professional journalist, but he’s not a professional photographer. He backed into photography after he returned to the farm, partly as a way of telling his city friends and others what life was like back home.

He began taking his digital camera every time he went outside and began capturing images of the farm and farming life and throwing them up on Instagram. Since 2012, he’s posted more than a 1,000 with some being simple photos of things happening on the farm, others pointing out his articles in Grainews, the National Post and Maclean’s, and some being beautifully exposed and edited images that make the Dyck farm seem almost supernaturally beautiful.

He doesn’t just shoot anything.

“I set things up. I’m sure Jamie would say I overthink.”

But he gets great results with his digital camera, his iPhone, and, since spring, his drone.

He’s not trying to build a mass following, but is happy to put his images out there for friends, family and especially curious urbanites.

“I really like the idea of showcasing the farm to non-farmers,” said Toban, after walking me around his farmyard on a cold October morning, showing me a few of the scenes he has shot.

“The kind of engagement that you get with Instagram and Twitter, it’s just fun. It’s fun to connect with people and see what they like and what kind of comments you get.”A lot of little corners of the Prairies are getting exposed to the world these days, ones that would never have been revealed before the days of social media. Dyck’s farm is just one of them.

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