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Ag Must Do A Better Job Of Communicating With Consumers

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Temple Grandin encourages ranchers to reach out and communicate with the public.

Earlier this week, my youngest sister, Kaley, competed at her district FFA contest in both public speaking and extemporaneous speaking, two contests in which I also had the great honor of competing in as a youngster at the National FFA Convention. In extemporaneous speaking, a contestant draws three topics, selects one to speak on, and has 30 minutes to develop a 3- to 5-minute speech, followed by 5 minutes of questions. Kaley drew the topic of using social media to promote agriculture, and I can’t think of a more important topic for all of us in this industry to consider.

Many people still scoff about the power of social media, particularly those who are slow to adapt to these communication tools, but consider this:

  • There are more than 650 million active Facebook users.
  • More than 71% of all Internet users in the U.S. are on Facebook.
  • On Twitter, there are 100 million active users, with an average of 1 billion new tweets every five days.
  • Instagram has more than 5 million users, with 860,000 new photo uploads/day.
  • The average Pinterest user spends an average of 58.8 minutes/visit, while the average time spent on Facebook is 12.1 minutes.
  • There are 2 billion unique visitors/day to YouTube.
  • There are 31 million bloggers in the U.S.

These statistics cleary indicate there is a huge audience waiting for us online. We only have to click a few buttons and the opportunity to reach out and educate folks about agriculture is huge. Using tools like blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are simple and cost-effective ways to bring the farm or ranch to the general public and help folks regain trust in American agriculture and fall in love with the cowboy all over again.

Temple Grandin says agriculture needs to do a better job about communicating with the general public. We can’t afford to become complacent.

Grandin says, “Agriculture across the board is horrible at communicating. Look at the ‘pink slime’ issue; the beef industry should have had a much more immediate response, educating the public about what lean finely textured beef is, and that it's a safe, efficient product. There was a response eventually, but it came too late. The damage was done.

“It shouldn't take an event like that to initiate the communication. Although most people are very detached from agriculture, they're still fascinated by it. I remember looking one time at the most popular videos on YouTube, and one of them was just of a front loader scooping up grain. Now, to a farmer, that has to be one of the most boring things to watch in the world, but to someone who's never seen it before that's fascinating.

“Unfortunately, much of what's out there are the videos of what's not being done right in agriculture. The ones who are doing things right need to show the public what's going on.”

Read Grandin’s entire story here.

Without a doubt, we all need to become better advocates for agriculture, and like my sister stressed in her FFA speech, social media is the way to do it. I challenge each and every one of you to post something positive or educational about agriculture online today.

What’s your social media of choice? How do you use it as a tool to promote agriculture?

Discuss this Blog Entry 6

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2012

It is a lost cause to comunicate with the public...they are idiots who do not listen.

on Nov 25, 2012

I think your attitude is unfortunate. "The public" is plural. Some "publics" are indifferent. Some publics are stupid. Some publics are highly informed. Some publics are mildly curious but don't know where to start.

I think a whole lot of people care quite a bit about their food: who makes it, how it's made, what it really is, whether it's safe. I also think a whole lot of city people (myself being one of 'em) have a whole lot more regard for the producer at the bottom of the chain than you seem to think.

Sure, there's plenty of ignorance. It's not like we get a whole lot of TV shows set in the wide open spaces examining every aspect of rural life from every angle. But rural America has a powerful hold on many Americans in the cities.

Don't write us off. More of us are inclined to be on your side than you think, at least until that magic moment when we're called "idiots."

Anonymous (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2012

What the industry must communicate to their customers to succeed:

Charlie Arnot on Consumer Concerns about Animal Welfare: ”When Science Isn't Enough: What consumers need to trust animal agriculture"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2IqPmO5aHk&feature=youtu.be

Protecting our Freedom to Operate: Earning and Maintaining Public Trust and our Social License
http://animal.cals.arizona.edu/swnmc/Proceedings/2009/03Arnot_09.pdf

Consumer Trust in the U.S. Food System: An Examination of the Recreancy Theorem (source of Arnot’s consumer trust data)
http://www.foodintegrity.org/media/upload/Consumer%20Trust%20Research.pdf

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2012

Amen, no kidding! Let's listen to last night's concession speech delivered by Mitt Romney, stop the nonsense and get together to get the job done.

Kevin in WI (not verified)
on Nov 7, 2012

Too many, too stupid, more coming. There is some great content on the sites you mentioned. But people still think high priced organic is going to make them live to be 180 yrs old. And farms should have 2 chickens, 1 cow, and plow with horses. "You milk with machines?" is an oft - heard comment. I'm grumpy today. Let them push diesel to 10$. I'll get in the food stamp line with everyone else.

on Nov 25, 2012

Kevin, there's enough irrationality to go around. I can't speak for anyone else, but my consumption of "organic" is mainly a matter of freshness and taste. All beef is good, but the beef I get straight from the rancher tastes better than what I get at the store. I can definitely taste the difference between farm-raised salmon and wild salmon. Tomatoes from my garden are much better than anything from the store.

I read food labels. One of the biggies is bread and crackers advertised as "whole grain" or "multi-grain." The large type leads you to think that its 100% whole grain -- which is better for you because it has more fiber and converts to sugar more slowly. Then you look at the small print, and its a different story.

I realize that many people don't care about what's in their food, and that many people are wildly and sometimes laughably inconsistent. But I'd also argue that it's good for farmers and ranchers when more consumers are paying more attention to what's in their food, even if there are some ridiculous moments.

"Beef is what's for dinner" at my house, and I try to eat "real food for real people," which is one that I made up on my own. I will assume that you're a farmer of some sort, so thank you for feeding me. I'm not one of those people who think my food started its life in a shrink-wrapped package.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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