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Farms are All a-Twitter

October 5, 2013
Social Media Panel
theWorld Dairy Expo's social media panel from left to right: Michele Payn-Knoper, Carrie Mess, Emily Zweber and David Foster.  
 
 

Social media makes telling your farm’s story a lot easier.

By Wyatt Bechtel, Dairy Today associate editor

The advent of social media has changed the way communication is done across the world--and across the barnyard.

During last Friday’s "Say What? When to Tell Your Social Media Story" seminar at World Dairy Expo, a producer panel discussed some of the reasons they became involved with social media and why it is important for others to follow in their footsteps.

Michele Payn-Knoper, a Holstein breeder from Indiana, moderated the panel. Her blog can be found at CauseMatters.com.
• "Remember how you felt about email probably 20 years ago? Well it’s kind of the same deal, social media is not going away. I think we all understand that there are some real challenges with it but there are also a lot of opportunities."
• There is value connecting with other farmers via social media because it can be an isolating profession without these lines of communication.
• "The impression that we are able to leave about farms and families is so critical."
• "When will you have time? Will you have time when the next nasty video comes out? When PETA is more than happy to talk about how you are abusing your animals? When dehorning becomes the next consumer issue? Will you have time then? If you have time then you probably have time now."
• "It’s an honor and a privilege to care for animals so we can eat."

Carrie Mess was not originally from a farm but she married a Wisconsin dairyman and now operates a blog at DairyCarrie.com.
• "When I married the son of a dairy farmer, my life totally changed. I found my passion."
• The friends list she started out with on Facebook was comprised of many people who did not have agriculture backgrounds.
• Mess has a lot of great conversations on her Facebook page with the nearly 40% of her audience who are not involved with agriculture.
• "I post a lot of photos from my farm. I post stories about what is going on at the farm."
• "We can really have a lot of good conversations beyond the choir, the farmers in the room."
• Mess first got on Twitter as a way to sell lingerie, and she said that selling cows and lingerie are really not that far apart. "Derrière and dairy air."
• "What I found was this really great community of farmers out there. Farmers that were on Twitter, and they were really helpful to me because I was still learning."
• Mess recommends sharing photos because it doesn’t take that long to do and it is a great way to reach people.
• "I need our story and our message to get out there."

Emily Zweber is from an organic dairy farm in Minnesota. She also married into the dairy industry.
• "Blogging was the first way I got into social media specifically for my farm."
• "I’m kind of a social media addict."
• Zweber joined MySpace right when it opened and she hacked onto Facebook with her husband’s college email because her school was not on the site at the time.
• "We started our blog to share recipes."
• Zweber wrote her first non-recipe blog in response in 2010 to the undercover video shot by Mercy For Animals at Conklin Dairy.
• Not all of her blog posts are about farming. She talks about being a working mom which brings a different angle to it.
• "That’s how I connect to people first and the dairy part comes second."
• On being an organic farmer: "My rule is I don’t want to throw any dairy farmers under the bus. We’re all working together to provide a wholesome product…We all bring different things to the table."
• "We value social media as a risk management tool."

David Foster is a dairy producer from Kansas where he works on the family dairy.
• Foster is active on Facebook and Twitter, but he does not operate a blog because it can be too time consuming.
• Foster graduated from Kansas State with an agriculture communications degree along with an animal science degree. He worked for the communications program at the university, so he is well versed in various communication techniques.
• "There are times I just get flat burned out on social media. The things that go on with the daily operation of the farm can bog you down."
• Foster estimates he only spends 10 minutes each day on social media sites, but he still finds using social media important.
• He takes pictures of what he is doing on the farm and he tries to stay regularly involved with Facebook and Twitter.
• Usually his access to social media sites is spent during times when he has to wait in the feed room for the mixer wagon to be filled.
• "You want to be relatable to your audience."
• Foster isn’t positing his photos or statuses for other farmers; he’s doing it for the consumer.
• He does use social media to connect with other young dairy farmers because there are so few in his area.
• "The camaraderie that is developed online is important."

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