Darin farms with his father and a couple of valued partners raising corn, soybeans and feeding cattle near Morrill, Kansas. Darin was heavily involved for many years in precision ag technology, using tools like yield monitors and GPS systems to improve agronomic decision making on the farm. His growing focus on social media and communication technologies in recent years came from a realization that increasing numbers of people are generations removed from the farm and very unaware of modern agriculture practices. “Social media offers a unique opportunity for today’s farmers to connect directly with folks who have an interest in how food, fiber and more is produced today,” he said.
After nearly 10 years on the road in agribusiness, Jeff VanderWerff is back home on his family’s farm near Sparta, Michigan and doing what he loves to do most- raising corn, wheat, soybeans, apples, and peaches with his wife Alyssa, brother, father, and uncle. Always on the cutting edge of farm technology, Jeff first started telling his story with a 2009 feature in Farm and Ranch Living. “In some cases, I think other farmers sometimes are in greater need of information about what we do than the public. Social media is a great tool to accomplish this.”
Zach Hunnicutt is a fifth-generation family farmer from Aurora, Nebraska, who farms with his dad, brother, and cousin raising irrigated corn, popcorn and soybeans. Zach received a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing an MBA from Nebraska. Their farm has always been on the cutting edge of ag technology, and being able to connect with farmers and consumers from around the world through social media is a great extension of that focus.
Tim farms with his wife, Emily, and his parents on their fourth generation organic dairy in Elko, MN. In addition to the dairy, Zweber Farms raises beef, pork and chickens for direct marketing. The Zwebers use Twitter, Facebook, and their website and blog to spread positive messages about agriculture. “Social media is important to our family because it is a way to develop relationships with consumers and other farmers.”
Marie Bowers is a 5th generation grass seed farmer in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, farming land that has been in her family for over a hundred years. Prior to returning to the family farm she graduated from Washington State University with degrees in Agriculture and Agriculture Economics and Management then spent 3 years in the Farm Credit System. When she discovered #Agchat on twitter it opened many doors and connections. It fueled her passion for telling her story via social media and encouraging others to do the same!
Jan Hoadley grew up on a family farm with Charolais cattle in Illinois. Today she raises poultry and rabbits at SlowMoneyFarm with a combination of tradition and technology. As a growing farm on a cash budget, social media has been a means of survival and promotion. With a long standing interest in heritage and rare breeds of livestock, heirloom plants and an identification with the customer through direct selling, social media is a means to build connections. “Social media allows those outside of our area to share our lives, what we do and why we do it as well as communicating about what consumers want. Even if they don’t agree, understanding is a win for both sides.” Jan raises Giant Chinchilla rabbits, several breeds of heritage chickens and is actively working on direct sales with customers for the farm.
Mark still has a couple of 4-H ribbons from the Walworth, Wisconsin, county fair in a drawer somewhere, though he did not grow up on a farm. After studying journalism in college, Mark started his career in Florida as a newspaper reporter, covering a variety of topics from devastating freezes in the Citrus Groves to Migrant Workers. Much of the rest of his career has been spent at advertising agencies working closely with agriculture. He is now a partner at Charleston Orwig, and has the privilege of working closely with many clients large and small who serve virtually all aspects of food production – including those who work and live other lifestyles. “I am excited to see social media used as a way to connect farmers and consumers together so they can learn from one another.”
Whether armed with a facilitator’s hat, a cow halter or boxing gloves by her microphone, MPK is known for her agricultural advocacy work as the principal of Cause Matters Corp. Her family’s small farm in central Indiana includes registered Holsteins descending from a heifer she purchased at the age of 12. She works internationally to build connections between the farm gate and consumer plate as a Certified Speaking Professional and writer, inspiring others to agvocate. “Social media once seemed like a silly fad, but I’ve learned the power of a community transcends the tool – as proven by this Foundation.”
Kathy was born and raised on a dairy farm in Virginia, earned her DVM at The Ohio State University and chose to have a career in agriculture as a cattle veterinarian because of her love for animals. Kathy serves a variety of clients in Florida and southern Georgia. She enjoys being an information resource for people, as the care and health of animals continues to be a growing concern for consumers. Kathy is excited to be involved with this diverse group in educating people about the many ways agriculture helps their everyday lives. “Social media is important because it allows personal interactions between people who ordinarily would not come in contact with each other.”
John Blue, as Chief of Community Creation for Truffle Media Networks, develops the ability to engage agricultural focused audiences through marketing, technology, and in person interactions. Social and new media tools allow anyone to easily share their story with audience groups large and small. For agriculture, having easy access to social and new media tools is an important step toward having real conversations with people not directly involved in bringing food to the plate.
Chuck is president of ZimmComm New Media, parent company of several on-line agricultural publications including Agwired.com. Chuck’s background in ag communications began in 1984 when he started working for Florida Farm Bureau, then co-founding what is now Southeast Agnet, and eventually moving to Missouri to manage Brownfield Radio Network. Chuck and his wife, Cindy, started ZimmComm in 2004 just as the social media wave was beginning and have been learning more every day, along with teaching others how these tools can help agriculture. “I’ve been involved in AgChat from the start and hope the Foundation will help spread the good news about agriculture from those who know it best.”