Things are tough in the world right now, especially in agriculture due to COVID-19. The food system is taking a beating over the closure of restaurants, hotels, and schools.
Farmers are seeing a lot of their hard work go down the drain, literally, with milk disposals, vegetables being plowed over, and animals that are ready for market having no place to go.
It’s tough to see this happen on the farm, and you might want to share your feelings and images with the world so everyone knows what’s happening to you, but you should be careful with what you share and how you share it.
There are many ways that others will use these images and videos to misinform our consumers. Or, media members who search farmers’ social media channels may not understand the full context of the situation.
We do encourage farmers every day to share their lives and connect directly with consumers to build trust in their food. To better understand what message and story should be conveyed at this time, I have compiled some best practices from farmers who regularly post content on social media to large and small audiences. I hope you take their advice to heart and you follow their social media channels to watch how they share their positive messages and build relationships with consumers.
Best practices on sharing tough situations:
Katie Dotterer-Pyle — Maryland Dairy Farmer
I filmed the Facebook live video on supply chain management to explain exactly why milk dumping was happening. If people are going to show posts of dumping milk, they need to explain the reasons.
When it started happening, I found that many farmers did not understand why they were asked to do that. It also goes into why milk can’t be donated and the processes it goes through. I’ve had a ton of positive feedback from both farmers and consumers. It’s almost to a million views. I’ve had so many teachers asking me for the link to share with students.
Also, I think it’s important to note that while many want start the blame game, NO ONE could see this pandemic coming. You learn to adapt. The old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all,” applies very much right now. Tensions are high. No one wants to hear it, but there are so many lessons to be learned throughout all of this
Derrick Josi — Oregon Dairy Farmer
I wish farmers that keep sharing pictures of milk being dumped would explain why. The context is desperately needed so people understand. There are significant challenges facing our industry. I think we can rise to the challenge if we look for innovative solutions and stop playing the blame game.
Carrie Mess — Wisconsin Dairy Farmer
If you’re going to share something that is a negative side of farming, you need to provide a full explanation of what is happening and why. And always watermark your photos in those situations.
This is an important tip. One farmer shared pictures of the brutal cost of the Washington blizzard a few years ago. Those pictures went viral and were used by activist groups. With a logo on the photo, it would have kept them using the photos so freely.
Jessica Peters — Pennsylvania Dairy Farmer
I’ve had a lot of people ask me if we should be sharing more about all the bad things happening and my advice has been, if it makes you feel uncomfortable sharing about it, don’t.
It’s ok to post content as usual. We’re all feeling the bad. We need some ‘business as usual’ or uplifting content, too. 🤷♀️
Rebecca Hilby — Wisconsin Dairy Farmer
I share bad things that happen to keep it real, but with all the negative happening lately, I’ve kept it light and funny. I have had a few people thank me for being a positive light during this time. I think it’s important to share the bad, but there is so much good to see during this time, too, between just regular happenings and all the donations taking place. It’s quite incredible.
Mary Mackinson-Faber — Illinois Dairy Farmer
My objective has always been to keep my content evergreen.
Ashley Messing-Kennedy — Michigan Dairy Farmer
My advice is to keep the wording and terms simple and understandable. Use metaphors and examples that people not involved in ag at all can relate to and understand. It makes these things easier for everyone to understand.
Are you a dairy farmer who needs help getting started in social media and connecting with consumers? Your local and national dairy checkoff can help — please reach out to them via dairy.org or me at [email protected]. If you would like to learn more about your national dairy checkoff, you can join our Facebook group or visit dairy.org.