Weld farmers grow plants and Facebook likes in a new wave of farming
Colorado Farm Bureau on social media
John Dooley, communication director for the Colorado Farm Bureau, said he thinks Facebook is a great tool for him and bureau to connect to members. Alerts and news releases are often posted on Facebook for members to see, as well as any events going on in the state. He said it allows people to stay informed, see pictures and just know what the farm bureau is up to on a day-to-day basis.
The post was about the honey-making process happening at Ginger’s Farm in Eaton, Colo., during which followers were being updated in real time.
Farm owner Matt Varoz later posted a video to show people what he was up to.
“What are you doing? Is that honey?” one response read. “Yummmm!” said another Facebook follower.
Varoz isn’t the only farmer cultivating interest in his farm by using social media.
Throughout the nation, farmers and ranchers are tucking their smartphones in their pockets before heading out for a day’s work.
A quick snapshot in the field and 140-character crop update lets consumers feel involved in the process.
“I think one of the biggest things that has generated interest and followers is just letting people know what’s going on on the farm,” Varoz said.
Although posts and tweets won’t physically plant the seeds in the field, producers are using social media to plant some seeds of knowledge in consumers.
“It’s really important for us to start educating people again on where their food comes from,” he said. “Social media is kind of our classroom.”
While Varoz invites all consumers to come out to his self-sustaining farm, he realizes not everyone can make the trip. He said social media is perfect for people in that situation.
“It really breaks the barrier between us — the seller — and the buyer,” he said. “I would say 30 percent — maybe more — of our sales comes from our presence on social media.”
On May 27, Varoz posted a status and cute baby animal pictures to welcome 13 baby piglets to Ginger’s Farm. He thinks all businesses should embrace the social media fad.
“I don’t know in this day and age — if you didn’t have a social media presence — that you would do very well,” Varoz said.
Social media growth
Agribusinesses are increasingly turning to Facebook and other modes of social media rather than just a normal business website to bridge the gap between farm and table.
“We’re starting to see exclusively Facebook and Twitter. We’re seeing more and more that websites for businesses are just another place for an ‘About Us,’” said Derrick Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Farms in Greeley. “The website is there but our future is going to be more out of the social media.”
Hoffman and his wife, Hanmei, run their small Greeley farm and update both Facebook and Twitter a few times a day to keep their followers entertained and interested.
Hoffman said they receive business from Facebook pretty regularly.
“Facebook connected us with an organization in Loveland and they reached out to us to work (their farmers market), and we actually did well,” Hoffman said. “If it wasn’t for Facebook, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity this past Saturday.”
The Hoffmans focus a lot on growing peppers, but because Hanmei is from China, they have started growing some unique Asian vegetables this year.
These veggies won’t be found in a grocery store, Hoffman said, creating a problem of familiarity and how to properly use the veggies.
For this reason, Hoffman said they plan to start a Pinterest account, so they can put recipes for these unusual veggies out in the blogosphere to cultivate interest.
What’s old is new again
Joe Miller, of Miller Farms in Platteville, has been working on the farm for more than 30 years.
He said social media has helped grow interest in his farm, and attendance for their fall festivals has increased since they started using social media.
For Miller, Facebook is kind of a return to the old ways, but on a new platform.
“Word of mouth is pretty much how we built our business and the Facebook thing is just kind of an extension of that,” he said. “Maybe people don’t talk as much as they used to but they talk online.”
Miller said often times he gets more likes on Facebook just because someone posts a status saying they’re at the farm or that they had a good time at the fall festival.
Social media connects producers to their consumer, something that has long been an impossible task.
“The producer has never ever met a lot of their consumers,” he said. “Facebook kind of bridges that gap a little.”
Learning from each other
Producers also use social media outlets to keep tabs on what other farmers and ranchers are doing.
Often, ideas are born from something farmers see on Facebook that another farm is trying and posting.
“We all learn from each other,” said Robert Winter, a Weld County Farm Bureau representative. “That’s the way farmers are.”
He said there was initially some push-back in older generation farmers on using the Internet to further their farms, but most have caught on by now.
”I think some of us older ones have tried to stay away from it but it’s the way of the world. For the longest time we were just email, and now we’re starting to search the web,” he said. “We’ve resisted but it’s the wave of the future.” ❖