Charles Klinefelter’s customers have watched Lin Dar Farms raise Scottish Highland cattle from cuddly looking, furry “teddy bears” to shaggy-coated, splendid beasts with expansive horns. They’ve been introduced to sleepy newborn calves, just hours old; watched hay silage going into the silo to feed the herd; and pigs playing a barnyard version of tetherball.
Through social media, folks visit this Ohio Farm Bureau member’s 200-acre Wayne County family farm on a regular basis – daily if they prefer, without ever stepping foot in the field or barn. Social media and farming might not seem the likeliest of companions, yet the partnership provides an easy way for consumers and farmers to connect, to act as a source of information and encourage dialogue about the origin of food consumers eat.
Engaging in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and other social media tools while working is anything but a waste of time for young (and some older) farmers like Klinefelter, 24, a third-generation dairyman who returned to the family farm three years ago. Like planting seeds, every post, view and video helps grow his farm and awareness for the industry. He gets noticed and creates understanding for what he’s doing. He’s able to network with other farmers, customers and potential customers on a local, regional or perhaps even global basis.
Klinefelter thinks that using social media like Facebook is a lot like what he does when he’s at the Wayne County Fair and talking with people. “It’s another chance for them to ask questions and get answers like why we dehorn our herd, pasteurize our milk or what’s a combine and how does it work,” he said. “Maybe they want to know about GMOs or ask if we use antibiotics on our herd.” Social media allows him to keep these conversations going throughout the year and inform his followers about what happens on the farm.
Klinefelter has used social media to introduce the dairy’s mixed herd—some by name, like “Maggie.” The farm has 75 head, some 5th generation, of Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey, Brown Swiss and several crosses, all highly valued for producing milk with a high butterfat content.
“At 4 a.m., I start milking,” Klinefelter said. “Then I make the rounds checking on the calves and heifers.” Just like posts about puppies or kittens, photos of new calves get plenty of attention and “likes.”
Somewhere between checking and feeding, there’s an endless list of chores to complete, depending on the season. Field work; cleaning, fixing and repairing equipment; harvesting 200 acres of feed crops; making hay; planting corn…all of which could end up on Facebook.
Every other day, 6,000 pounds of milk is trucked from Lin Dar Farms and sold to Dairymens and Borden where it’s used to make sour cream and cottage cheese. Social media gives his followers just a taste of his life on the farm and they can follow the journey of the foods they put on their family’s table.
Some social media tools offer more than just connecting Klinefelter with an audience. He relies on his iPhone to make life easier on the farm. “I can check and look things up all day long,” he said. Online calendars can record when a field was planted and Google can confirm the seeding rate and optimal dates for planting crops.
Klinefelter’s family farm has tractors that are 50 years old but still get the job done. The milking equipment is still pretty traditional, too. “But we rely on a GPS feature to tell our agricultural aircraft exactly where to spray to prevent overlap. That uses a minimum amount of spray so I save money and prevent the overuse of chemicals on the land or crop,” he said.
Profit margins in farming are tight so Klinefelter also explores how to continue farming and stay ahead of the bills. He produces pork and maple syrup on the farm as well and is exploring adding grass-fed beef. Direct marketing to the consumer is one answer and social media aids in that by revealing and creating markets for new products. “It connects me with the people who want my product,” he said.
This year Charles Klinefelter participated in Our Ohio’s #TakeOverTuesday on Instagram, the mainly mobile photo-sharing network with 100 million users. It was a unique opportunity where Farm Bureau invites farmers to take over the account for a day and share what’s happening in their world.
“I was really intrigued by that opportunity,” Klinefelter said. “I had followed what other farmers were doing on their takeovers from sheep farming to raising crops to people who were raising animals in their backyards. It really demonstrated the diversity in farming. There are as many types of farming and things to do as there are farmers.”
For Klinefelter’s generation social media can deliver important and accurate information. “We seem to be really interested in sharing what we’re doing because we want to inform the world,” he said. “It gives us the platform to let people know we are taking care of animals and the land. It’s important that we share what we do because, like them, I’m as concerned about the quality of the water and the humane treatment of the animals I work with every day.”