Consumers are hungry for information about where their food comes from. Most consumers are three or four generations removed from the farm. However, through the use of social media, consumers can now connect directly to the farmers who produce it.

And a lot of farmers have jumped on the social media bandwagon, taking the lead in educating consumers. But still more farmers are needed. To encourage more farmers to grab the social media bull by the horns, the Know a California Farmer program hosted a workshop on Thursday in Modesto, Calif. is a Web site where farmers and ranchers post personal photos, upload videos and write blogs. Visitors to the site have the chance to learn what farmers do and how they do it. It’s also an opportunity to start a conversation with some who think their food comes from the back room of a supermarket, as well as opinion leaders who continue to promote an ever-growing load of regulations.

 Approximately 400 farmers in California have signed up to share their story, but more are still needed.

“If I can get my mom to blog anyone can blog,” Katie Pinke, strategic lead with AdFarm, told workshop attendees. Pinke explains that her mom blogs as a result of an ABC News Nightline story in 2010 about tail docking on a dairy farm in New York, which Pinke’s mom had toured. “She started telling her story because she didn’t want (former CBS News anchor) Katie Couric to tell her story for her.”

If you aren’t familiar with social media, it may seem intimidating. But until you start, you won’t learn. Here is some advice to help get you started:

  • Keep your message simple. “Sometimes we get so worked up about what we’re going to say that we don’t say anything, and miss the opportunity to connect altogether,” says Pinke.
  • Stick to your key messages. “Even if you want to go here or there, stick to the positive messages and stay out of the weeds,” she says, quoting author Henry Beckwith, “Saying many things usually communicates nothing.”
  • Be proactive instead of reactive. “We don’t educate in a crisis,” notes Pinke. Create proactive content long before there is a crisis.
  • Don’t pit yourself against your neighbor or farmers from other states. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an organic peach grower or a Georgia peach grower – you’re all peach growers,” she explains. The important part is telling your story.
  • People who question you are an opportunity, don’t feel threatened.
  • Find common ground.
  • Don’t blast them for having a different opinion.
  • Show your personality.

Pinke advises that social media doesn’t have to start big, it can start small. And, if you don’t think you have time for social media, figure out a way to carve out time, learn and do it. “It just becomes part of the fabric of your life,” she says.

For more tools and tips for getting started with social media go to:

Find out what Ray Prock, a dairy farmer from Denair, Calif., has to say about the Know a California Farmer program and social media.