By Amber Morin, Arizona Farm Bureau Field Manager and Southern Arizona rancher with her parents: Growing up, I had some exceptional role models – my parents. One of the best lessons that I learned from them was, “If you keep a good reputation, it will do the bragging for you.” However, after I started working for Farm Bureau, it became apparent that while agriculture was doing an amazing job, our industry still had a very small toehold on the upward climb of having a good reputation with the public.

Arizona Farm Bureau has more than a dozen social media channels. But those digital channels hosting the most compelling story are the ones coming from our farm and ranch families. 

As an example, according to USDA and American Farm Bureau, today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950, but no one seems to notice. I began to ask myself the question of, why is this happening. Why isn’t the model of keeping our heads down and working hard gaining traction for our industry’s reputation? In my opinion, the age of social media has not flipped this fundamental idea on its head, but it has changed it dramatically.

Social Channels Disrupt Traditional Relationships

Reputations are what other people think of us, and they can only be established if there is some form of relation with other people - good, bad, or indifferent. Society today is establishing relationships and forming their beliefs about others via social media. The days of earning a reputation, trust, and credibility through in-person relationships over a length of time are now less frequent than using online relationships via Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat to do the same. A social media message/chat, is not the equivalent of, but is taking the place of, a cup of coffee and a conversation. We, in agriculture, are an industry that values in-person relationships living in a time where following someone online means, “We’re ‘friends’ … on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat.”

We cannot deny that a shift is happening surrounding our culture’s idea of what relationships are and how to form them. This is significant, because reputations are reliant on relationships for their existence.  So, if we aren’t out there forging relationships, we are letting our naysayers establish them in our place subsequently allowing them to capitalize on our silence to hurt our reputations. The adage, “If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu,” can be applied to social media as well.

It is commonly discussed among us, that agriculture and agriculturalists have arrived late on the social media scene. Our faultfinder friends were hot on social media advancements, while we were hot on the next agricultural advancements. Both of us concerned about what tools would make us more successful. They were using social media as a tool to build relationships, credibility, and trust, while we were using our latest tools like GPS guided tractors, biotech crops, and selective livestock breeding technology. We have catching up to do in the realm of social media, myself included. I used to call myself the “World’s worst Millennial,” because growing up on a ranch I learned to love alone time and obscurity. I can’t use these excuses anymore. To do so, would be doing a disservice to the industry I believe in and people I care about.

While slightly behind, there is hope. The great thing about social media is that it travels along a much faster timeline than our agricultural practices do. Every day and every hour, agriculture has an opportunity to renew itself via social media platforms. It is a tool for us, and if we don’t learn to use it, it will be just as unproductive as if we bought a brand-new piece of equipment and never took the time to learn how to operate it! So, don’t waste an opportunity to use a new tool that can advance your operation and the industry at large. I am not saying that you must use all the social media platforms, but choose one. Choose the one you are most comfortable with and use it to build relationships with others, so that our industry reputation can recover from the silence. Quite frankly, I don’t see any other way around it.

Editor's note: Arizona Farm Bureau's outreach director cheers on this young woman's convictions about the use of social media. It's not the end-all tool, but it is another way to bridge the gap between the public's perception of agriculture and reality. Our future reputations just may depend on it. If you have questions regarding a social media tool contact us at Arizona Farm Bureau. 

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