In a world where consumers are becoming further removed from the farm, people who are involved in agriculture are being encouraged to tell the world what they do every day using the Internet as a platform for reaching a wide audience.
“If a farmer isn’t telling his or her story, plenty of armchair farmers will” said Carolyn Olson, a producer and blogger from Cottonwood, Minn.
She realized how little factual information there was online about agriculture when she was preparing to talk to a group of South Dakota sheep producers about blogging last fall. Much of what she found online about raising sheep was posted by anti-agriculture groups.
“There’s a lot of misinformation,” she said. “That’s what people will flock to.”
Farmers need to be more proactive about getting their stories out there, Olson said. The more who do, the more readily that information will be available online when someone searches for something such as raising sheep.
“We need to saturate those searches,” she said.
Olson gave some tips for how to get started with a blog at the Ag Women’s Day conference in Brookings this month. She aims to keep her writing positive. Her top rules are to tell your story, tell the truth and “don’t be a jerk.”
Conversations online can get heated, and Olson says it’s best to walk away from those.
In her blog, Carolyn CAREs, she touches on some hot button current events. Minnesota’s proposed buffers between ag land and waterways was the subject of one recent post.
Using photos to show the slope of some fields in her area, she explained why she feels a standard requirement for buffers wouldn’t work because the land at each site has different features. She aimed to approach the topic factually and give perspective from someone who works with the land.
“You are the expert,” she said. She encourages other experts to share their stories, too.
We spoke with Olson and three South Dakota women about how they got started and why they blog.
The ranch life that Heather Maude writes about on her blog will probably change. When she spoke to us on the phone from her ranch north of Scenic, S.D., she and her husband, Charles, were expecting their first baby any day.
Maude grew up on a cow-calf operation in eastern Wyoming. She joined her husband on his fifth generation farm, where they raise small grains and cattle and have a small farrow to finish hog operation that supplies barbecue and butcher hogs to customers in western South Dakota.
When she’s not on a break from writing for a new baby, Maude works as a freelance journalist for ag publications. She started blogging in her down time when working at the weekly Wyoming Livestock Roundup.
She enjoys taking photos of ranching life, especially busy times such as branding day, hauling hayand shipping cattle. One of her most viewed posts describes how to load cattle onto a cattle pot. She describes how the trailers are designed and tells, step by step with photos, how ranchers arrange the animals inside.
Maude enjoys writing about the jobs she likes doing most on the farm. Producers aren’t always focused on sharing what they do, though, and as a result, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, she said.
“A lot of people, in my opinion, they would really like to have accurate information about agriculture,” she said.
Maude is looking forward to writing about her new life as a mother, too. “Raising your kid in ag is a wonderful privilege,” she said.
The way Robyn and Jim Goddard run their cow-calf operation in the northwest corner of South Dakota is much different than how it worked where she was growing up in central Nebraska.
Through her blog, Goddard aims to show one of the many ways people ranch. “Everybody’s story is so unique,” she said.
Goddard works cattle and builds fence alongside her husband. She gets some guff sometimes for packing her camera bag along on the job.
When working cows at a cousin’s place, a friend asked why she was carrying her purse. She had to laugh, she said. “My camera goes with me everywhere.”
Goddard has a loyal following of her regular Monday and Thursday blog posts, and she’s made friends across the country. She and other bloggers email and text each other to share tips and talk about projects.
“Every ranch wife needs a creative outlet,” she said.
Carolyn Olson has a different perspective than most Midwestern farmers. She and her husband, Jonathan, have a century farm near Cottonwood, Minn., where they grow 1,100 acres of organic crops in addition to finishing 7,000 pigs a year.
It’s a mix of organic farming and confined animal feeding – two types of agriculture that are often at odds. Because of that unique view, Olson felt she had some interesting things to say.
She named her blog Carolyn CAREs, which stands for Committed to Agriculture while Respecting the Earth. When choosing a name for the blog, she thought about what kind of message she wanted to convey, and most important to her was to let people know that farmers respect the earth and the environment.
In addition to explaining their day-to-day work and writing about ag issues, Olson writes about family and her faith. Telling those personal stories helps readers relate to you and builds trust, she said.
Another tool Olson is starting to put to use is her new GoPro video camera. It’s a great way to show how something works, she said.
Amy Kirk got her start writing about ranch life the old fashioned way, in a regular newspaper column. “A Ranchwife’s Slant” is printed in each issue of the Tri-State Neighbor, and it has appeared weekly in other papers since 2007.
It was a reader of her column in the De Smet News that encouraged her to take her writing online. Kirk eventually became friends with the reader, who was living on the east coast at the time.
The reader had a media company and was taking the De Smet paper while working a project on Laura Ingalls Wilder. She told Kirk there was a need for her column, and others like her would be fascinated by the work ranchers do.
Kirk was raised in Custer, and joined her husband’s family ranch to the south near Pringle.
She and her husband, Art, have two kids. Myles, 19, just returned from his first year at South Dakota State University. Their daughter Renee is 15.
Kirk writes about parenting, raising ranch kids and the gender gap. Major events on the ranch are a highlight, including branding day, moving cows and cattle sales.
With her column, Kirk tries to keep things humorous, and in working cattle there’s usually some kind of humorous mishap to write about. “You’re working with livestock; it’s very unpredictable,” she said. “You just kind of have to roll with it.”
She suggests to aspiring bloggers that they keep it simple, don’t be afraid to be yourself and don’t be afraid to tell your story.
“Whether they’re from the area or they’re from clear across the country, I think people really enjoy seeing pictures of farmers and ranchers in action doing what they do,” she said.
[“source – tristateneighbor.com”]