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Speaker Tells How to Share Your Ag Story


by Jerry Goshert

Published: Friday, March 25, 2022

Michelle Miller, known on social media as The Farm Babe, came to Goshen last week to share tips on how to be an effective advocate for agriculture.

She was a guest speaker last Wednesday at a workshop sponsored by the Elkhart County Soil and Water Conservation District. A Wisconsin native, she has become famous for her social media posts that educate the public about agriculture. She currently lives in northcentral Florida and travels around the country, speaking to audiences. She also writes a column for AgDaily.

Miller shared many tips about how to communicate online. While many farmers may not view themselves as social media influencers, Miller said they have a tremendous opportunity to do so.

"People have no idea where their food comes from," she said, "but you have the power to tell the most insanely cool story. You might take it for granted, but remember that the average consumer doesn't know what a combine is, they don't know what a soybean field looks like. So, it's up to you to bring that excitement on what you do every day, because what you do is really, really cool. I promise you."

If you become good at farm advocacy, Miller says you can earn extra income from creating content and posting it on social media. That is how she earns a living.

In one of her most famous posts, Miller uploaded a 40-second video of sugar cane harvest in Louisiana.

"I didn't do any fancy editing," she said. "It was literally my cell phone for 40 seconds. It reached 1.1 million people in two days, of people sharing the content."

The Farm Babe has over 205,000 followers on her social media pages. She also has thousands of others who read her blogs.

Although she was raised a farm girl, Miller wanted to experience what the world had to offer, so she earned a degree in fashion and moved to the big cities of Chicago and then Los Angeles. There, she became the antithesis of who she is now. She followed a gluten-free diet because she heard that consuming gluten was unhealthy.

Her story took a turn when she moved to Florida and met an Iowa hog farmer, who was on vacation at the time. Eventually, the two fell in love and she moved to Iowa to live with him on his farm. He raised no-till soybeans and used cover crops on his land. She soon learned that she was misinformed about the food supply. She started blogging to educate the public about modern farming and to dispel some of the myths about agriculture.

Although that relationship didn't work out, Miller continues to travel around the country to tell the story of farming and dispel myths. She talks about issues like GMOs (genetically modified organisms), organic versus conventional, pesticides, food labeling, sustainability and vegan diets.

"Fear is a huge selling tactic for many different industries now," she said, noting that one popular food blogger portrays conventionally produced food as being unhealthy and bad for the environment.

"I used to believe stuff like that," Miller said, "so I'm especially passionate about it because I don't like to be lied to. Nobody deserves to be lied to."

Farmers represent just 2 percent of the population, but Miller says they can change public perception if they speak up about what they do.

"Let's have conversations with food corporations, have a seat at the table and open up your barn doors to them, because they want to hear from you way more than you'll ever know," she said.

Some people, such as activists, will never change their minds. But Miller said 90 percent of people are in the "movable middle."

Miller says slinging mud will never persuade anyone, but you can have a tremendous impact by telling the positive story of conservation and regenerative agriculture.

Animal rights activists want you to believe that livestock are destroying the planet, Miller said, but, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Only 4 percent are from livestock and 2 percent are traced to cattle.

To make a difference, Miller advises farmers to open a social media account (she prefers Twitter) and begin connecting with consumers. The first goal is to build rapport and establish your expertise.

She offered six tips for communicating online:

1. Have empathy. "Speak to anybody like you would speak to your best friend."

2. There's no wrong platform to #agvocate!

3. Be yourself.

4. Share humor or memes.

5. Find your voice and personality, kindness.

6. Share your expertise. You are the expert, trusted voice.

Miller said consumers don't always trust big corporations, but they do trust farmers.

"Farmers are very well respected," she said. "Polls show that almost 90 percent of people trust farmers. It's kind of the blank, faceless corporations they don't trust. But you have the power to really move the needle."

When you post, Miller recommends talking about technology and what makes regenerative agriculture cool. Most consumers aren't familiar with regenerative agriculture, so you have to explain it in a way that makes sense. She added that they are more likely to buy your food if they know how it was grown.

Miller also offered the following suggestions for those who want to start their own page on social media:

1. Have a memorable name that's catchy.

2. Comment as your page, not yourself.

3. Relationships matter. "When it comes to building a following, share content from other people that you admire."

4. Would this go viral? Is it interesting? "I have filmed something as simple as turning the bull out to the pasture. For the average person, it's kind of a cool thing."

5. Be authentic. Build a connection with stories.

6. Hot topics and humor! Your voice matters.

Miller says farmers should be involved not only on social media but also in their communities. She said they can make a difference by contacting local politicians and grocery stores, reaching out to the news media, hosting field trips and being a vendor at farmers markets.

Miller concluded by saying that the point of your advocacy should be to build trust with consumers. The goal is to connect on shared values and let them know that you are a voice of reason.

"Be that person first and the farmer second," she said.

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