Every 60 seconds, 293,000 people update their status on Facebook, 100,000 tweets are sent out on Twitter, and 1,200 people are browsing and frantically “repinning” on Pinterest.
As social media becomes more and more prevalent in our daily lives, it is also creating a greater need than ever for agricultural advocacy.
The National FFA Alumni Association hosted several workshops that focused on advocating for agriculture during the 2012 National FFA Convention & Expo. The workshops emphasized the importance of agricultural advocacy as a whole, as well as advocating the National FFA Organization and agricultural education.
“Social media is a great way to help people catch a glimpse of farm life and understand that farmers are people, too,” said Ryan Weeks from the AgChat Foundation.
Erin Ehnle, creator of “Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl” has helped thousands of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest users understand this important concept. Ehnle’s project combines both her skill for photography and passion for agriculture by editing photos of her family farm with statistics and common facts about the agricultural industry and then sharing them on social media. But to Ehnle, agricultural advocacy isn’t just necessarily about getting the word out – it’s about getting conversations started.
“If we can get conversations started through what we post, we can help spread the positive image of agriculture,” said Ehnle.
Michelle McCartney, an FFA member from Tilden, Texas, also felt strongly about advocating for agriculture.
“Just getting out there and promoting what you love is so important, and agriculture is something that needs the most support,” she said.
Weeks urged farmers and agricultural education teachers to start religiously using social media in order to help advocate for the entire agricultural industry.
“Social media allows us to go outside our own choir. Sometimes we’re really good at preaching to your own choir, but it’s time we step outside our comfort zone.”
Becky Darnell, a member of the Kentucky Alumni Association, had similar thoughts.
“We need to start reaching out to people in our communities who don’t understand what agriculture is all about,” she said. “We need to start being proactive in how we use our voices in agriculture through social media.”
A negative portrayal of agriculture in the media is something that weighs heavily on Ehnle’s mind – and according to her, it’s up to us to destroy any misconceptions about the agricultural industry.
“We need to educate the public about what we do and override the negative videos and pieces of information. It’s as simple as that,” she said.
Ricky Kreif, an FFA alumni member from Kewaskum, Wis., felt that advocating for agricultural education is one of the most crucial things we can do through social media.
“We need to keep young students engaged and encourage them to continue to advocate if they want agricultural education programs to stay in our schools,” he said.
Weeks said that that perhaps the most important thing with agricultural advocacy is taking the leap of faith to tell and promote your own personal story on social networks, whether it be Facebook, Twitter, a blog, or even Pinterest.
“As we have this extreme use of social media in all forms, our story is out there and we’re not telling it. We’ve got to get involved with the conversation. We can’t let somebody else tell it for us. My question for all of you is, ‘what’s your ag story? You all have one, and you need to tell it,” he said.
Abbey Nickel is a sophomore at The University of Findlay studying journalism. This year, she’s reporting on the convention and expo as part of the National FFA Convention & Expo Newsroom Crew.