Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has always seemed to be an outspoken advocate for farmers. He’s done plenty of social media posts where he’s shared what he’s learned on farms and ranches and continues to promote eating meat and connect with those of us in rural America. So when Karen Livesay, a small business owner from southeast Iowa was invited to Facebook’s headquarters to talk farming, I had to call her and pick her brain to hear more about her experience.
Karen was randomly selected through Facebook to apply for their second annual Facebook community summit. Admittedly, as a 25-year-old small town Iowa farm girl, she was a bit skeptical at first … why would they choose her? But after an extensive interview process, she was chosen along with about 200 other Facebook pages and group admins.
Karen is a fifth-generation Iowa farmer, but her family has been farming for 14 generations in the U.S. overall. In 2013, they launched their Facebook page, A Better Way to Farm, where they have focused primarily on fun video content to promote their family business and sell products to farmers based on soil test results. They focus on micro and macronutrients and sell fertilizer down to the specific ounce per acre.
When asking about her favorite video they’ve done, Karen lights up discussing their annual “12 nutrients of Christmas” videos. Like many other farm folks, they’re big on family and pretty tight knit.
“My dad will wear a Christmas sweater every day in December, and it’s not an act! It’s who we are,” she says. Watch their videos here.
After being chosen to tour the massive Facebook global headquarters with extremely tight security, she was impressed with how much she feels the company genuinely cares about small businesses. Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg both made time in their busy schedules to speak at the summit — an experience of a lifetime. A majority of the 350 to 400 people who attended the summit were group admins, but the pages and groups represented all different sizes and walks of life, from the American Cancer Society to bicycles to farming.
Karen shares her view: “We are grateful Facebook recognizes the importance of agriculture and are thankful to be selected for the role we play in our industry. I never dreamed of making a global impact but after five years of running our Facebook page. We get daily messages about how we are positively impacting the world. Without Facebook that would not be possible.”
The page is now up to nearly 80,000 likes.
The moral of the story is: just like Karen, many of you may be reading this and wondering how she did it. She asked herself, “Is this real life? How and why was I chosen for this all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco (Menlo Park) to get to talk about our small family farm business?”
You just never know what opportunities may arise, but always try to go for it! Even people from the smallest towns with no stoplights can still be considered for an out of this world business opportunity to represent America’s farmers.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.