The human element of farmers: Sports obsession & Oscar dresses

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Editor’s note: This blog was written by Zach Hunnicutt and originally appeared on www.causematters.com. Zach Hunnicutt is a fifth-generation farmer growing corn, popcorn, and soybeans near Giltner, Nebraska, with his dad, brother and a neighbor. He and his wife have a three-year old and a one-year old who will hopefully be the sixth generation one day. You can find him on Twitter at @zjhunn.

The University of Nebraska is moving to the Big Ten next year. You likely knew that already, and if you follow me on Twitter, I did all I could to drill this information into your eyeballs last June while the whole conference realignment business was at its fever pitch. Because of the magical convergence of GPS autosteering in my tractor, a Blackberry and long days applying fertilizer, I could follow and share all the information the interwebs had to offer about which school was going where and which conferences might collapse. To say I was obsessed would be understating the fact; to say I was annoying wouldn’t be incorrect.

What does this have to do with agvocacy? Everything. Not because Nebraska is a top-notch land grant university whose agricultural research will be greatly aided by entry into the Big Ten, and not because some cutting-edge ag technology made it happen, but because it allowed my followers to see a human element to the farmer behind the smartphone.

One of the chief aims of agvocates is to reconnect a disconnected public with their food production. At a basic level, this means making sure that people know that milk and eggs aren’t made at the grocery store, that field corn and sweet corn are different, and that somebody has to butcher the meat they’re grilling, to name a few issues (I can’t count the number of times I’ve explained that popcorn isn’t just yellow corn that pops). It also means explaining what we do and why, to clear up misconceptions and give the public a greater understanding of what we’re doing on the farm.

However, we need to remember that we’re not just connecting The Public with the Farm. Social media is about connecting Zach in Giltner with Jesse in New Jersey. Agvocacy becomes most effective when we add that human voice to the farm. For instance, I obsess over sports like a lot of my followers. I deal with the same joys and frustrations of parenting. Somehow, I even got sucked into watching the Oscars (and tweeting about a dress, no less…). Basically, I’m a human being like anyone else; I just work on the production end of the food supply. And once people know Zach the person along with Zach the farmer, I (hopefully) earn a higher level of trust when I talk about agriculture. Just as we trust offline friends to recommend things such as music and restaurants, developing online relationships builds a trust that can make all the difference in sharing your agvocacy story.

So there’s my deeply insightful advice for all you agvocates out there: tweet about your lives. Talk about your favorite music. Obsess over your sports teams. Share what you’re seeing while people-watching in malls and airports (just remember it’s a public forum…and hope that lady with the mullet isn’t on Twitter). Focus on making a human connection with your audience while you’re making an educational connection. And get ready for me to fill your Twitter feeds with Nebraska’s first year of dominating the Big Ten. Go Big Red!

Zach recently appeared on CNBC to discuss his use of Twitter on the tractor. http://www.cnbc.com/id/41948275

Source: Cause Matters Corp



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