The seeds haven’t even been planted yet but already farmers have been visiting a 10-acre plot in Marion County and taking video and pictures of it. Are they checking out a new variety of seed or production method? No, the land is being used for “Follow Farming,” a promotion of agriculture, Farm Bureau and member organizations.
For seven months, Marion County Farm Bureau leaders and others will be documenting the growth of the corn and soybean crops that will be planted on the plot. A social media campaign is showing the process from seed to harvest to market. The target is the non-farming audience.
“This is going to be a way for us to let the general public know what’s going on week to week and what type of things affect our crops and food and the challenges we have day in and out,” said Organization Director Korre Boyer.
The idea for Follow Farming started at an August planning meeting for the Marion County Farm Bureau. During a brain storming session on how to promote agriculture and Farm Bureau, the group talked about having a “follow the farmer day” or doing a community farm. Combining the two ideas became the perfect fit.
With approval from its board, the group approached the Morral Companies, an ag supply company whose employees are Farm Bureau members. Morral agreed to donate the use of 10 acres on its property and provide inputs.
“Morral thought it was a great idea because we were going to do some of the things that they were trying to do from a social media standpoint,” said Marion County Farm Bureau President Cy Prettyman, a farmer and sales consultant for Land O’Lakes.
At first Prettyman wasn’t sure how beneficial it would be using social media for the project. But that changed after he attended two social media training sessions with Ohio Farm Bureau Communications Specialist Dan Toland.
“I was pretty skeptical but after I went through some training, I said ‘Yep, there’s some value there and it could work,’” he said.
Follow Farming uses all aspects of social media: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a blog. The Facebook page is updated at least once a week with pictures or videos (also shown on YouTube) of the field. The Facebook page also features interesting facts about Ohio agriculture.
“The Follow Farming project is one of the most forward-thinking online consumer outreach programs,” Toland said. “We look forward to watching the growth of not only their crops, but also the growth of the farmers’ confidence in using these social media tools. By using a project-focused blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, these farmers aren’t waiting for consumers to come to them; they are proactively taking the farm to where hundreds of millions of people spend a significant portion of their online time.”
The social media campaign started in February and the county Farm Bureau promoted it during its annual farmers’ share breakfast, which typically draws more than 1,500 people. In the summer, the group plans to promote it when 3,000 bicyclists travel to Marion as part of the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure. Other plans include having field events during the planting and harvesting seasons.
“We want people to be able to touch the crop, feel it and see it firsthand,” said Prettyman, who has been working with his wife, Julie, on Follow Farming.
The project is the perfect way to recognize Morral Companies and show the value of partnering with Farm Bureau, Boyer said. The county Farm Bureau is working with the Central Ohio Farmers Co-op and the Poet ethanol refinery – two other employers whose employees are Farm Bureau members – on where the end product will go. All proceeds will be donated to local charities.