A conversation with Mike “farmerhaley” Haley, a farmer and social media (Twitter and Facebook) user
OCJ: First can you tell us a little about your farm and your background?
Mike: I am a fifth generation farmer from Wayne County, Ohio. My father and I raise corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. My wife, Pam, and I are continuing my grandfather’s love of beef cattle by raising purebred Simmental cattle on our farm.
OCJ: How did you get started with using social media?
Mike: About a year and a half ago I attended an Ohio Farm Bureau Young Agricultural Professional Conference where one of the sessions was talking about how social media can help connect with the growing amount of people wanting to learn more about how their food is raised. The importance of individual farmers telling their stories rather than leaving it to associations or critics really hit home. Pam and I both decided to get involved. That seems like forever ago, but it was at a time when farmers were really just finding the power. Since then the growth of farmers on Twitter and Facebook has been amazing!
Mike: How does social media benefit you and your farm operation?
OCJ: One of my best personal uses of social media has been to connect with other farmers to have real time crop progress reports and find answers to some problems I may be experiencing on my farm. The connections I have made through social media have also carried offline allowing me to better market my cattle, beef and opinions. I also think telling the story of my farm to people who aren’t familiar with the way we do things is in our shared interest. We can’t expect people to understand what we do if we aren’t willing to tell our story.
OCJ: How can you benefit others through social media?
Mike: Use of social media to connect with others can give them a sense of security about how we raise the food they eat and care for the environment. It’s also a great tool to connect with other farmers across the world to learn about crop conditions in their area and what management practices have best worked for them on their farm.
OCJ: Which type of social media do you find most useful and why?
Mike: The most effective tools I have found in social media are Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has 180 million active users, and Facebook has more than 500 million. There is huge potential for a wide reach. It’s also important to find local social networks to keep in touch with people that live close to you.
OCJ: How much time do you spend using social media and how do you fit it in around farm work?
Mike: My use of social media is focused around some of the gaps throughout my day. Sometimes when I am busy, a simple status update from the tractor is all I have time for. Other days I may find myself entrenched in a compelling story about agriculture. I think it’s a necessary investment in the farm, much like having our paperwork in order.
OCJ: How can the use of social media by other farmers benefit them?
Mike: Every farmer’s situation is unique. For some it may be attracting more people to their farm market, or agritoursim. Others it may be simply to connect with other farmers to find answers to concerns on their farm.
Mike: How can social media be of use to agriculture as a whole?
OCJ: Less than 2% of the U.S. population is involved with agriculture. With increasing regulations due to people’s disconnect with farming, it’s important that we share our story. By doing this we can maintain the public’s trust in order to create a suitable business environment for future generations on my family farm. Telling our story proactively and having more voices telling the story lets us connect more people to the farm through the Internet since so many have lost that physical connection.
OCJ: Who are some of your favorite sources of information on Twitter?
Mike: I follow a very wide spectrum of people on twitter. Some of my favorites are:
• Andy Kleinschmidt: Ohio State University Extension agriculture educator @akleinschmidt;
• Ohio Farm Bureau: @ohiofarmbureau;
• The AgChat Foundation: @agchatfound.
OCJ: What tips do you have for other farmers interested in learning more about social media?
Mike: The first step is to get your feet wet and start using it! Some great sites I have used to get more information about social media are:
• OFBF Social Media Guide: ofbf.org/media-and-publications/social-media/
• The AgChat Foundation: www.agchat.org
• Cause Matters: www.causematters.com/.