Social Media Outlets Offer Growers Link To Public, Profit

While there is plenty to learn about dealing with today’s crop protection, production, and farm management challenges, there are some often-missed opportunities ripe for the picking, too. Among those is the potential social media has to tell a producer’s story thereby boosting business and contributing to the industry’s overall success. This was one topic that kept bubbling up during the 2013 Florida Ag Expo’s opening session grower panel.

The Grower Panel at the 2013 Florida Ag Expo played to a packed session room. [From left] Michael Hill, Lakeshore Growers; Paul Orsenigo, Grower's Management Inc.; Tom O'Brien, C&D Fruit and Vegetable Co.; and Jamie Williams of Lipman participated in a lively discussion covering multiple topics including social media marketing, mentoring the next generation of farmers, adapting to challenges, and more. Photo by Paul Rusnak

The Grower Panel at the 2013 Florida Ag Expo played to a packed session room. 
Photo by Paul Rusnak

The panel, moderated by Mike Aerts of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, included Michael Hill of Lakeshore Growers, Paul Orsenigo of Grower’s Management Inc., Tom O’Brien of C & D Fruit and Vegetable Co., and Jamie Williams of Lipman. Each provided a unique perspective on addressing key market challenges and opportunities for today’s growers.
One of the questions revolved around how to attract future farming professionals to the fray. Modern technology, including farm-related apps and precision ag equipment, is an aspect that Orsenigo thinks will draw GenNext growers to the industry. “Today’s generation has grown up with technology,” he said. “That is one of the most attractive things about agriculture.”
Social media connections like Facebook and Twitter are part of that digital lineup. While those online networking outlets are in wide use among the general public, they — by and large — are underutilized by most of today’s farmers. “We have to do a better job of educating consumers,” said Hill. “Social media is free marketing. We can get what we want to say out there.”
While providing a level of transparency and a direct connection to the consumer, Facebook postings, tweets, blog entries, and Instagram galleries all can help drive demand for local product. Williams said consumers knowing what’s in season and fresh at their neighborhood market can only help. “It’s amazing how much information [people] get from social media,” he said. “We haven’t tapped into that potential to influence marketers.”

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All agreed on how important it is to spread the word about the benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables and the role social media plays in delivering that message. “As producers of food, we have a good story to tell,” Williams said. “Having consumers inquire about the product is what’s going to keep us sustainable.”

Thanks to DuPont Crop Protection for sponsoring Florida Ag Expo Extended Coverage.