Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

‘Social media can help boost farming’s image’

- Lindi Botha

Negative sentiment towards farmers is not a problem unique to South Africa, as farmers in the US face harsh backlash from consumers who believe they are harming the environmen­t. The power of social media and showcasing daily life on farms is, however, turning the tide in producers’ favour.

This was according to speakers at the Africa Agri Tech 2023 conference held recently in Pretoria. US farming celebritie­s Michelle Miller, better known as the Farm Babe, and Kevin and Shawn Kalb, multi-award-winning maize farmers who have their own reality TV show, Live to Farm, explained how speaking up about the realities of farming can sway public opinion.

Kevin lamented that farmers get a lot of flack in the US because of the total disconnect between them and consumers. “We make our money from the soil, yet the public have this perception that we are harming the soil and drenching everything in chemicals.

“Farming is a business and it is in our best interest to look after the environmen­t. Consumers have no idea what good [environmen­tal] stewards farmers are.”

Speaking at the show, Jared Palick, an executive producer of Live to Farm, encouraged farmers to get more involved in creating authentic content on social media. “We shouldn’t shy away from social media because we feel our lives are mundane. We need to share authentic stories and communicat­e the whole, not only the highlights,” he explained.

Miller gave examples of how social media could impact farming policies.

“In the US, campaigns fronted by Hollywood celebritie­s Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt resulted in legislatio­n that had pig farmers overhaul their pig housing to the tune of millions of dollars. This was aimed at improving animal welfare, but there wasn’t an issue with animal welfare on farms to begin with.”

She added that with corporatio­ns and activists changing the narrative about farming for the worse, the agricultur­e sector needed to speak up: “We have to be at the front lines of these conversati­ons. The loudest voices will get the most attention; make sure your voice is there.”

According to Palick, authentic communicat­ion about farm life was also important to ensure the next generation was interested in farming.

He said attracting more young people to farming was dependent on its image: “Showing more farming programmes and communicat­ing daily life through social media increases interest.”

Miller gave tips on communicat­ing about the agricultur­e sector on social media. “Be patient and speak to people as if they’re your friends. Don’t talk down to them, and keep it fun and light. Starting conversati­ons can shift [mindsets]. Farming is hard. There are many things we can’t control, but we can control the perception of farming.” –

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