Coleman, the company behind those iconic green camping stoves, lanterns and other camping gear, recently launched its “Original Social Networking Site” ad campaign. In the commercials, old home movies shot around campsites play while the narrator talks about the times before Facebook and Twitter. To some, a world without social networking sites is a lot like those home movies – calm. For others, social media are growing necessities to connect with people around virtual campsites, and 8mm film is replaced by smart phone videos uploaded to YouTube.
The agriculture industry can embrace social media as a way to open new lines of communication with growers, distributors and consumers. Social media also gives local farmers and specialty food producers an opportunity to compete with larger farms around the country. State agriculture departments have already dived into social media, from Michigan’s Facebook page to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s three Twitter accounts. One of the accounts is targeted specifically to Ohio wineries and wine consumers.
But social media is not just Facebook and Twitter, it’s also blogs that help connect rural famers to cooperative extensions through sites like WNC Vegetable and Small Fruits News . Social media for agribusiness is even being taught at colleges like Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. The course was geared for professionals, but a younger generation of agriculturalists uses social media in college to network with peers and to join online communities. For example, Alpha Zeta, the agriculture fraternity at N.C. State, uses Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and its blog to communicate with current members and alumni.
Another recent example of social media cross-pollinating with agriculture was created by the Farm Credit System. The company’s “Keepin’ it Rural” video contest bridges the gap between the calmer world without social networking and the world full of social media. On the contest’s site, you can submit a video showing how you “keep it rural” for a chance to win $3,000.
These are just some of the ways that the agriculture industry is using social media, but we want to hear from you. Are you a local farmer? Do you use Facebook, or read agriculture blogs? What are some of your favorites? Let us know how you use social media.