Direct-to-consumer agricultural businesses, like local farms, farm-to-fork restaurants and ranchers, are taking advantage of platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok to connect with their consumers in a multitude of ways.
From educating them about what “grass-fed beef” means to keeping them up to date on the seedlings sprouting in the field, more and more young farmers and ranchers are utilizing these connection points to educate the public, answer questions and share stories. These media-savvy farmers are helping to bridge the gap between what many consumers only see as ready-made products on the grocery store shelf and the unique relationship humanity has always had with growing and harvesting food.
Some of these producers also use their platform to bring attention to important factors impacting the ag industry today.
Using Social Media to Educate and Inspire
Victoria Darden spent the entirety of her childhood on her family’s 1,200-acre soybean and corn farm. Some of her earliest memories involve following her dad around the property while he worked. She and her family are responsible for growing thousands of acres of commodity crops, but they don’t sell their products directly to consumers.
“Our operation is grain-based, and we sell our products to the grain elevator,” Darden says. “In turn, they can sell our corn and soybeans to chicken feed houses or load them onto barges and sell them nationally.”
Despite not selling directly to consumers, Darden recognized the importance of educating the public about the agricultural industry as a whole, and one of the first things she did after completing her agricultural sciences degree and stepping into a leadership role in the family business was create a social media presence on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
“Our farm didn’t have a social media presence before I started working here in an official capacity,” Darden explains. “But since we’ve launched accounts on these two platforms, I’ve started sharing photos of the crops and helping educate the public on what life is like in the agriculture business.”
One of her favorite things to do with the online platforms is to share the beauty of farming with those who may not otherwise have the chance to experience life on a farm. She also uses the images and captions to help people understand the importance of row crops for the local community and beyond.
In addition to sharing beautiful photos and information, Darden has wielded her social media platform as a tool for change in her community.
Darden and her family live in a floodplain known as the Yazoo Backwater Area and their community has suffered continued hardships from multiple floods.
After a devastating flood sent a substantial amount of the southern portion of the Mississippi Delta underwater in the late 1920s, a flood control plan called the Yazoo Backwater Pump Project was born. However, the project was delayed due to high expenses and other concerns and was never actually completed.
This lack of proper drainage put the community in a path of destruction in 2018 when the area experienced precipitation more than 20 inches above normal. Historic flooding continued in 2019 and 2020, devastating the homes and livelihoods of Mississippians.
“One of the ways I used social media was to help start the hashtag #finishthepumps,” says Darden, referring to the Yazoo Backwater Pump Project the community desperately needs to be completed. “We helped educate people in the community who otherwise wouldn’t know how to use social media tools on how to share the information with wider audiences. We’ve even formed a 501(c)(3) for our organization, Finish the Pumps.”
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, inspiring news articles and generating much-needed attention on the issue.
Darden knows they still have a long road ahead, but utilizing social media platforms and getting the word out is an excellent start to what she hopes is a successful journey.
“Finish the Pumps, both the organization and the hashtag, have become the online voice for the people of the Yazoo Backwater Area,” she says.