Educating consumers about agriculture isn’t new to farm organizations, but communication methods have changed over the years. Just ask Larry Sailer, who raises corn and soybeans near Iowa Falls, Iowa. Sailer (pronounced Cy-ler) has been in the hog business for 50 years. During this time, he’s been active in farm organizations. He currently serves on the Franklin County Farm Bureau board and volunteers with the National Pork Checkoff’s Operation Main Street Program. He’s also involved with Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom project.
“Anything you can do to start a conversation with consumers about food and agriculture is good,” said Sailer in the Dec. 11, 2011, Agri-News article.
With this goal in mind, Sailer is a staunch supporter of “America Needs Farmers.” America Needs Farmers (ANF) is a collaborative effort between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Farm Bureau Federation. “We want to know what questions consumers have about what farmers do and why we do it,” he says.
Another way Sailer has helped explain modern agriculture to non-farmers is through the 2011 Harvest Tour for bloggers, which was sponsored by Franklin County Farm Bureau, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds and debworks. Participating bloggers had so many great things to say about their experiences riding combines, touring Latham’s seed production plant and shopping Main Street that they attracted national media attention. Franklin County’s inaugural bloggers’ tour became the “Starting Point.”
When CNN visited Des Moines on Jan. 2 to cover the Iowa Caucus, the conversation turned to how Iowa farmers use the Internet. That conversation made it increasing evident to Sailer why connecting with consumers – and helping dispel myths – is more important than ever.
“CNN introduced me as ‘a real Iowa farmer’ like I was an endangered species or an apparition,” says Sailer. “Why is so hard to believe that farmers carry Smartphones or that the Internet is available in rural America? Farmers chat online daily. We blog, tweet and post Facebook messages, too.”
Thanks to his iPad, Sailer stays abreast of breaking news throughout the day and keeps in contact with farmers and ranchers across the globe. “If I’m sitting in line at the grain elevator, for example, I’ll open my iPad. I’ll pour over farm data or log onto Facebook or Twitter. I use social media as a way to communicate and share ideas in a virtual coffee shop. It’s also a great way to start a dialogue with consumer whose interest is piqued.”
Sailer has more than 1,500 friends on Facebook. His favorite Facebook posts are those featuring photos from farmers and ranchers out west. He also regularly visits websites like AgChat.com and FacesofAg.com. In addition, he reads many ag-related and local community blogs including TheFieldPosition.com, Farm Fresh Blog, Need a little advice, Common Sense Agriculture’s Blog, Darin’s Ramblings, Wag’n Tales and A Glorious Life of an Idaho Farmwife.
Soon he’ll add one more bookmark to his list… Watch for Sailer’s weekly blog post to run every Tuesday on TheFieldPosition.com beginning Feb. 7!