Welcome to the Future

A couple of years ago, I was in a meeting where the speaker asked the audience what color YIELD signs were.

Someone quickly yelled out “Yellow and black,” and the speaker then asked how many people in the audience thought that YIELD signs were yellow and black. I confidently raised my hand.

In fact, YIELD signs are red and white. They haven’t been yellow and black since 1971. As the speaker pointed out, the world is always changing around us. Sometimes it takes us a while to catch up.

You’ve no doubt heard about social networking, and how it is changing the way that people interact. Facebook, for instance, is only a couple of years old. It wasn’t available to the general population until 2006…today, it has 750 million active users. Twitter also began in 2006. Today it has 200 million users. It posts 200 million “tweets” a day, and it handles over 1.6 billion searches.

All these numbers mean that the world is changing. And agriculture has to change with it.

Many ag operations have already realized that social networking is a great way to connect with their customers, and market their products and operations. Social networking is a great way to tell agriculture’s story.

Let’s take a look at some farms in the area that are using social media in some fashion to grow their businesses, educate their communities, and establish relationships with future customers.

Take Elioak Farm, for instance, in Ellicott City, Maryland. Martha Anne Clark is a committed advocate of farmland preservation, and she knew that the only way to insure open space in our communities was for people to reconnect with ag in a personal way. So she opened a petting farm, then a produce stand and pick your- own operation. It was a natural progression to add technology to that mix: the farm has an active Facebook page, and is working on a Twitter account, along with projects in Google maps, search engine optimization and easily accessible videos showing life on the farm.

Or take Frey’s Greenhouses in Pennsylvania, who use a Facebook page daily to interact with their customers. They use it to promote items in their greenhouse, but also to foster conversation with their customers—it’s a time-effective (and affordable!) way to reach hundreds and hundreds of people every day.

The Hopkins Farm Creamery in Lewes, Delaware uses social media to tell customers about their latest flavors, and use customer feedback to tweak their recipes and offerings. Burli and his wife Allison Hopkins have had such success with social media, they’re looking to start a blog to help answer some of the many questions they get about the farm.

Finally, Heather McKay of Marker-Miller Orchards in Winchester, Virginia says that using social media does take additional time, but she says it’s well worth the effort. “If someone takes the time to ask me a question, I’m going to make the time to answer it,” she says, and that’s a great way to look at the give-and-take you get in social media.

I’m sure that one of these examples will resonate with you, and hopefully cause you to think about how you might use these tools in your own life or on your own farm. For my part, I’ve learned how to use Facebook, and I write this blog about things happening around MidAtlantic. My preference is still to interact with people personally, of course, but since my schedule doesn’t always allow that, I’ve found that using technology is the next best thing.

If you’re using social media already, give us a tweet ( @MidAtFarmCredit) or become a fan of our Facebook page (facebook.com/midatlanticfarmcredit).

These sites don’t take the place of personal connections—they’re a supplement to that. But they’re just one more way to keep up to date with what’s happening in your association. I hope you’ll connect with us on one of these venues in the future—I’d love to hear your feedback.

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