Two young men making waves in bridging the city-country divide have urged agriculture to embrace social media and show the reality behind the industry to end users.
As co-founders of the Thank a Farmer for Your Next Meal social media phenomenon, Mr Johnston, of Forbes, and Jim Honner, Harden, were guest speakers at the Henty Machinery Field Days on September 20.
The pair’s following has grown to 26,000 Facebook likes and almost 50,000 Instagram followers since 2014.
“We really need as a collective to start pushing the positive stories surrounding this great industry to the wider community,’’ Mr Johnston said.
He said social media had evolved year after year, with connectivity levels skyrocketing.
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are three widely used social media platforms with the ability to instantaneously share information, making them powerful tools.
“People love what they see and they want to share it,’’ Mr Johnston said.
“Farmers should be the same and, with the level of technology available at the moment, there is no need to be a professional photographer to take a quick in-the-moment snap.’’
Mr Johnston said the power of social media was unprecedented as a driver of change and popular opinion.
He said the development of a social online interactive network offered producers the ability to connect with the end users of their products.
“For a long time, there has been a growing disconnect between the people growing our food and fibre, and the end consumer.
“As the population of Australia has expanded, connections between those on the land and in the cities have diminished.
“To fill this gap, both in information and connection, social media is the tool that agriculture needs to use throughout the industry, from the wool producer at Ivanhoe, the wheat grower in WA, and the scientist developing a new improved formula of fly control to the people working for peak industry bodies.
“We need to start telling a story that not only informs but also explains how food is produced, why certain practices are done and how the industry as a whole does not condone the mistreatment of animals nor the degradation of land and natural resources.’’
Jim Honner believes producers need to unite to show the reality behind the industry.
“It is easy to become disheartened when you see a campaign attacking an industry and disillusioning consumers,’’ Mr Honner said.
“To combat this we need to show the hard work that goes in, the 365 days a year a farmer puts in to animal welfare.
“Otherwise, our voice and the pride we place in what we produce will struggle to reach our consumers and we run the risk of losing them.’’