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The felfie: how farmers are embracing social media

15/01/2014 14:36

Farmers are posting their 'felfies' online, but it's not just for fun – social media is a lifeline for people in a lonely profession.
Pouting at a camera isn't the preserve of trendy young urbanites. The "felfie" – or selfie snapped on the farm – is taking off, with farmers posting photos of themselves next to their favourite sheep, cow or tractor.
Farmingselfie.com, a blog set up by Essex farmer @willwilson100, collects the latest felfies from around the world – showcasing rural working lives everywhere from Finland to Argentina.
Cows head felfie by Angela Boesche Cows head felfie by Angela Boesche. Photograph: Angela Boesche/Twitter
Rural business adviser Simon Haley, who is based in the north-east of the UK, launched #AgriChatUK on Twitter in March 2012 to bring farmers together to discuss topical issues. By October, it was among the top 10 trends. The subject that got farmers talking? Crop yields? Milk quotas? The weather? No, it was mental health.
Haley (@halo42) says Twitter is proving to be a "lifeline" for people isolated on remote farms or just too busy to visit friends. "Farming can in many ways be very, very lonely. This is a great way to bring people together and enable them to communicate with each other in an easy manner."
Farmers today are seldom without a smartphone or tablet, even when on a tractor or working outdoors. (Many are frustrated by slow internet connections: around 60,000 UK homes – mostly in rural areas – have no broadband coverage at all.) How does the modern farmer monitor pregnant sows, set fertiliser levels or switch the irrigator on? Why not use technology to check flood warnings, discuss crop rotation or the best practice on spraying? Farmers from as far apart as Cumbria and New Zealand now swap tips on feeding ewes via social media.
@FarmersoftheUK launched on Twitter last week and already has thousands of followers. The first farmer it featured, @1GarethWynJones, has been posting pictures of his daily struggle to make a living on a Welsh sheep farm, including picking up dead sheep in the rain. He tweets: "As farmers we need to get out and share our lives We are fantastic at producing food but not very good at selling #truth."
Pork felfie by Long Bush Pork in New Zealand Pork felfie by Long Bush Pork in New Zealand. Photograph: Long Bush Pork/Twitter
Social media is helping to change that, though. Farming is a visual industry. During harvest, Farmers Weekly gets thousands of pictures via Twitter and Facebook. On Instagram, Dorset farmer Ben Hole (@benjaminhole) has more than 50,000 followers. Video is taking off too: Jake Freestone, a farmer in the Cotswolds, gets thousands of views via his YouTube channel.
Twitter has been an opportunity for farmers to break down some myths and promote the good work they do: #sosdairy in 2012 resulted in fairer milk price; this summer there was vicious debate around the #badgercull while #clubhectare tells the story of arable farmers and #agGen is encouraging the younger generation into farming. The National Farmers Union has recently recruited a senior social media adviser, @_PaulBradley_, to promote #BackBritish and other campaigns.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2014/jan/12/felfie-farmers-social-media