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Farmers need social media

Facebook sugarcane

President Donald Trump raised the ante for agriculture in social media last week when he tweeted, "New sugar deal negotiated with Mexico is a very good one for both Mexico and the U.S.”

With one tweet, the president relayed the message to his millions of followers that the United States sugar industry, an agricultural endeavor representing 22 states and thousands of farmers and other workers, is a national force to be reckoned with.

What does the power of social media mean for the Louisiana farmer? It means he or she now has the ability to become his own public relations firm. How many times have you thought "the public just doesn’t understand what it takes to farm in this day and age?”

David Gilmer of Gilmer Dairy Farm of Lamar County, Alabama thought the same thing. After getting asked so many times by city slickers how they managed the manure and grey water generated by their dairy cows, David decided to write, perform and produce the brilliant "Water and Poo” YouTube video. The video was shot with a smartphone mounted on the tractor dashboard while David sang about how "in an eco-friendly way, that’s how we like to play, dairy farmers know how to manage their water and poo.” The image shifts to the tanker carrying the water and poo as it sprays slurry out across a grassy pasture. Words don’t do the song justice so just Google "Water and Poo” and you’ll find the song. And if you like that one, David also composed "I’m Just a Poo Slinging Man” as well.

Silly? You bet, but the video does a great job of answering the public’s concerns about how dairy farmers get rid of cow manure. "Water and Poo” now has more than 50,000 views. Do you know how many rock singers would kill to sell 50,000 records? More than I care to think about.

The point is, social media is the cheapest media available to you to tell the world about the work you do in the fields. Think about it, you could show the public the awesome power of combine mowing down row after row of sugarcane with a 20 second video. Or you could take a picture when you have a break down in the mud and share the pain with the world. You’re the only one who can tell your story because I’m pretty sure you’re tired of the way traditional media continues to "get it wrong.”

Here are few statistics about social media: there are more than 1.94 billion Facebook users. That’s right, the Facebook world is larger than the population of China. Twitter users now have more than 328 million active users a month and there are plenty of other social media platforms. If you have an eye for picture taking, Instagram might be the platform for you. It’s a great way to demonstrate in pictures how farmers are protecting our food supply in an sustainable way and doing their part to maintain the American way of life.

How many of you are using social media? A recent study found 42 percent of farmers are using Facebook and Twitter daily. Of the farmers who engage in social media, 51 percent of the choose YouTube for their "go to” site. It’s not clear if farmers sitting behind the wheel of GPS-guided tractors are looking for the next "Water and Poo” hit, but statistics do show that farmers use YouTube for general news, music or perusing educational or "how-to” videos.

If you don’t know where to start, consider sharing items from the Louisiana Sugarcane Facebook site on your feed. Other Louisiana agricultural sites that do a great job on social media are This Week In Louisiana Agriculture and the LSU AgCenter. One thing is for sure: the consumer wants to know where their food is coming from. Who better to educate the public than the food producer himself?

Sam Irwin is the public relations director for the American Sugar Cane League.

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