When the National Farmers Organization holds its annual national convention in Kansas City next month Ashley Peterson, Genoa, will be honored as the Midwest Procurement Dairy Leader.
This young agriculture enthusiast attributes some of her success to her interest in telling the agriculture story and promoting the industry she loves through today's social media.
Peterson, West Central Wisconsin field representative for NFO and her counterpart, Nikki Studenski, Central and Northern Minnesota representative, have brought new energy and real first-hand knowledge about agriculture to a Facebook initiative launched by National Farmers at World Dairy Expo in October.
While farmers a few generations ago talked farming at the local feed mill, today's young farmers are using technology. 2farmgirlz on Facebook is the new way of "talking farming". It's a way to get farmers to talk with other farmers. It blends production and marketing information with agriculture advocacy and inspirational posts.
"As field reps we want to be a resource to our individual farmers, but we also want to be a national resource for all farmers," Peterson says.
The page started last summer and already has had more than 1850 followers. It features informative and light-hearted posts.
At World Dairy Expo and other farm shows they have attended they gained immediate attention by their bright colored apparel. The farm shows provide the opportunity to promote their Facebook page and do networking that is so important in the marketing arena.
Peterson says the Facebook page has opened up a line of communication between young farm people everywhere. She says, "We have even had some people asking us to help them locate a farm or find feed."
She believes eventually they could help young people interested in farming find retiring farmers looking for someone to take over.
They felt it would be fun to throw a little multi-media technology into a new campaign to try to help younger producers get local news, current events in the industry, and maybe learn about new products.
HIGHLIGHT LOVE OF FARMING
As the third generation on the farm her parents, Karl and Ann, operate, she hopes to someday farm full time herself. She has an associate degree in agribusiness from Southwest Technical College in Fennimore.
She loves dairy and cows and the Facebook page is a way to share her love for the industry with others.
As far as the NFO goes, Peterson says they provide information about NFO's marketing programs but they do a lot more than that. The purpose is not to "sell" NFO but to educate people on all aspects of farming. NFO's marketing programs, however, are a part of that education. Peterson says, "Many college students who have begun following us didn't even know about NFO's marketing programs."
"We want to try and come at the marketing side of it from a new perspective," Peterson says. "We need a social media presence that targets young producers, where we can get a lot out in a little bit of time. It needs to be something affordable and something with mass audience potential. Facebook meets all that criteria."
Studenski agrees. "The agriculture industry needs and wants young producers to continue, and we're the next generation out there speaking on that issue. We need to expand brand recognition for National Farmers…Remind them we're there for independent producers on the marketing side of it."
Dairy Department Regional Director Darlene Coehoorn, and the NFO communications department oversee the venture.
As a Rogersville dairy producer who is dedicated to preserving the family farm, Coehoorn is excited about the venture and says it is important for so many reasons. It promotes agriculture, reaches consumers to let them know that farmers care about their land and animals, and it lets both consumers and producers know why it is important that farmers get a fair price for their products. Without a fair price, families will not be able to pass on their farms to the next generation and consumers will be at the mercy of the very large companies for their food supply.
During the state NFO convention in Manitowoc the young producers in attendance applauded the program. Tom Crosby is a young producer who is also a national NFO director. He told the delegates at the convention that young producers have busy lifestyles and when they have time off from the farm they do not want to spend it all at meetings. They want to be involved but if their involvement means attending too many meetings they will back off and let others do it.
Fond du Lac area dairy rep Jim Heinen is also enthusiastic about the social media approach. He says, "This can go beyond just reaching farmers. It can educate consumers."
As a fieldman he says, "We get more requests all the time from our younger farmers to text information. They are used to instant information. They don't want to go to meetings or even talk on the phone."