As a mobile-friendly platform, Twitter has been used by farmers to share information, check realtime conditions, and connect with customers from its earliest days — CNN reported on this as early as 2009.
Now, with the drought of 2012 creating extreme conditions for farmers across a great swath of the U.S., farms are turning to Twitter and other social media tools as a support group to share information, gain insights and keep customers informed about changing conditions. In some cases, farmers are even beginning to use realtime technologies to connect directly with consumers and create new market efficiencies.
Some farmers are using social media as a fundraising tool to help small them recoup some of their losses and survive this year’s drought conditions. For example, the owners of Harvest Moon Farms, a 35-acre organic operation in southwest Wisconsin, are staging a string of fundraisers called “Drought Aid 2012.” Using social media and video to promote it, they generated $10,000 in the first 10 days, as reported by Grist.
Not surprisingly, the drought has also attracted a dedicated hashtag, #drought12, with everyone from farmers to the USDA sharing the latest information and strategies on how to cope.
With a Tweet, Tweet Here, a Video There, …
In addition to using Twitter as a realtime information feed, farmers are using video, blogs and Facebook to keep customers in the loop about conditions on the farm, in the hopes that this will keep customers engaged and supportive. They also rely on Twitter chats such as #AgChat to connect with other farmers and share information with each other.
Some farmers report that they are now getting more market intelligence from Twitter than from traditional sources such as the USDA. NPR reports on Bill Graff, who uses Twitter to find out how his fellow farmers are doing and make decisions about when to take his grain to market. And in May, the Nightly Business Report reported on commodities traders using social media to track news about the drought, and other information that might affect grain prices (starting around 1:20) — one broker says he follows more than 200 farmers on Twitter:
The Farm and the API
The other side of the supply chain is becoming more connected to realtime data feeds, too. A group called Open Food is collaborating on an open source API to share data about food. If they’re successful, then this will help grocery stores, restaurants, farmers’ markets, and the growers themselves collaborate to create greater market efficiencies by easily sharing information about supply and demand for various types of foods.
And then there’s Real Time Farms, a a platform designed to help consumers learn where their food comes from, in realtime, which features crowdsourced data about 4,900 farms, 2,600 food artisans and 7, 200 farmers markets, with data from an additional 22,000 farms coming online soon. The company recently announced a new partnership that would connect its data not only to restaurants, but also to home cooks.
As more farmers discover the benefits of actively using social media, will we start seeing more brands use social media, like John Deere did earlier this year, to reach out to them?