What’s an influencer? In marketing, it’s an individual who has the power to impact others’ thoughts or purchases. In agriculture, I’ve heard it described as an advocate, AGvocate, agricultural influencer, or social media junkie. Basically, they spend a bunch of time and some of their money sharing their farm and lives on social media.
They don’t do it for money or notoriety; they do it because less than 2% of our population understands what farmers do. Of the other 98%, some of those don’t want to know while others have all kinds of questions. By putting some effort into being active online, we open ourselves up to answering those questions. Depending on how serious you are, it can be a lot of work and a huge time commitment, but it can also mean big opportunities. Those who make the biggest impact may be asked to write articles, speak at conferences, or even be sponsored by companies. Having said all of this, I’d like to speak to two different groups.
First, to the industry, we (farmer influencers) are not here to spread your message, we’re trying to spread ours. We started our online journey to show the public what it’s like to be a farmer. Though we are excited for the opportunities you may offer, our time is valuable. You might simply ask for a few posts about your event or product, but to us that’s an hour of writing the post, then hours more responding to the comments and messages. When you ask for a blog post of 500 words, that’s a lot of thought and planning, then finding the time in our crazy schedules to actually sit down at a computer and type it. That’s time away from our families, our animals, and our farms.
Do you know how much work goes into leaving a farm for two days? You’ll pay a marketing company thousands of dollars to come up with a campaign, but expect us to donate hours of our time for a free hat or t-shirt? Maybe we’re supposed to just be excited for a few days away rather than expect to get paid to speak at your event? What about the time and money we lose to be there? You ask someone to speak because they’re good at what they do, but then you don’t value them for doing it? The message is that we’re not worth it just because we’re farmers. And that’s not okay, farmers are not “just” anything.
Lastly, to the other farmers out there, we are still farmers, too. We’re still milking cows, calving cows, shearing sheep, and doing whatever people do with pigs and chickens. We’re just also trying to take decent photos and video to show the world. We’re trying to help tell agriculture’s story. If we can answer people’s questions before they ask them, maybe someday there won’t be any more questions. Then maybe, just maybe, we can use Instagram what it was actually meant for, pictures of food and funny cat videos.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.