An ag presence is needed in social media | TSLN.com

An ag presence is needed in social media

Karoline Rose
for Tri-State Livestock News

Activist at the Door, are you feeling the pressure from activist about our lifestyle? On May 1-2, 2013 in Washington D.C., Animal Agriculture Alliance had their annual Stakeholders Summit. The goal was to help educate "us" the producer, the veterinarian, the mom blogger, the retail stores and ag media – how to handle activists. Protecting animals, farms, food and consumer confidence was the focus of this conference. Opening the door to discussion, conversation and the truth. Speakers shared their views on bridging the gap between consumers and producers. Customers want to know where their food comes from, they are curious and hungry for knowledge. Attendees were left with the send-home message that "we" must develop a value connection with the consumer, they want to know our identity.

Speakers varied from "mommy bloggers" to the Executive Director of Farm Broadcasting, Tom Brand, to Greg Peterson from the Peterson Farm Brothers. While everyone had a story to tell, the same goal of being proactive was told over and over. Since activists are constantly working to make small gains, those on the agriculture side must do the same. The question was asked, "If slaughterhouses had glass walls would we all be vegetarians?" The answer is simple, no. Temple Grandin has recently been working to release an "undercover" video that goes into a beef processing facility and shows it all – a look at the real story for consumers.

The main take-away messages from this conference were: 1) social media is a powerful tool and consumers don't need to understand us, we need to understand them and 2) social media needs to be used daily, to educate the consumer.

Andy Vance said, "Imagine your farm on YouTube. Would it be okay to a person on the street? Yes, carry on. No, consider a change." Almost 90 percent of the US population has a phone with video capabilities and producers need to make sure their actions are what is best for the animal. When people think of social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others come to mind, but social media is about creating relationships and telling a story. It doesn't necessarily mean posting on the internet, it could simply involve speaking out in public. Relationships with consumers are where the trust and understanding happens. The middle ground in conversation about animal welfare, is being willing to talk as much as listen and change according to the demand and preferences of the consumer.

Greg Peterson said it best when he said, "We are doing our best. No one is perfect but we are doing our best to get closer to that point." The United States has the safest, most abundant food supply in the world. There is absolutely no reason to fear our food supply! Steve Sayer opened up about the Hallmark/Westland Meat Company and how that video changed their world. He said it's not about hiding what we do, its about being transparent – showing the consumer we care, while understanding their concerns and questions.

Jim Miller from Rose Acre Farms said, "Farmers have nothing to hide." The goal is to build relationships now, so that when consumers raise a red flag, they can approach you because that bridge is already there. We must get everyone on the same page, from the cow-calf producer to the packer and the consumer. If we honestly have nothing to hide we must explain what we do, so that there are no questions. No rancher or farmer should condone abuse but some consumers confuse safe animal practices with abuse.

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Less than 3 percent of the U.S. population is vegetarian or vegan and yet we let them run the food conversation. We need to reach out to the 97 percent of the population that eats meat and build a relationship with them. Take 10 minutes out of your day and share your story, have a presence on social media and build that trust. At times, we feel as if we are fighting an uphill battle but big steps are being made in Washington DC to support you and your business.