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CENTRAL SOUTH ISLAND FARMER
Farmers encouraged to tweet
GETTING THERE: Sara Russell says
New Zealand farmers should
embrace social media.
By CATE BROUGHTON
NEW ZEALAND farmers fall
behind their counterparts in the
United States, the United
Kingdom and Australia for social
media usage -- but could soon be
catching up thanks to the
proliferation of smart phones,
according to Methven-based
farming advocate Sara Russell.
Ms Russell says social media
tools could revolutionise the
farming life in New Zealand.
After just a year in the
Twittersphere herself, the Young
Farmers network manager is now
on a mission to get more New
Zealand farmers tweeting with
New Zealand farmers haven t
really grasped the impact social
media can have.
Ms Russell says the perception
that taking part takes a lot of
effort is misleading and the
advantages far outweigh any
She points to one keen tweeter,
William Morrison from
Hunterville, who uploads a photo
and comment at least twice a day
about his farming activities.
Tweets such as; As I get sheep up
for today s work, it is a wild day in
the #Mangahoe. A big sou-
wester! with an accompanying
photo are typical.
He has a huge following in
Australia because they are
interested in grass-reared sheep,
Ms Russell says.
The benefits for Mr Morrison --
and for other farming tweeters --
is the connection with other
farmers around the country and
with customers -- who get to see
the daily operation of the
This year, as part of her Kellogg
Rural Leadership Programme at
Lincoln University, Ms Russell
will develop AgChatNZ twitter
group which she started with the
AgChatNZ hash tag in August.
Modelled on AgChatOz and
AgChatUK, AgChat NZ will soon
offer a weekly forum on topics
suggested by interested tweeters.
However, Ms Russell says each
of the AgChat groups has
developed its own style and
She said it would be up to the
participants to shape the tone of
AgChatNZ, but there was no
doubt about the power such
groups could provide for farmers
to advocate directly for their
A potent example was the UK-
based Twitter group #SOSdairy
which was formed by enraged
dairy farmers struggling with the
falling milk prices.
Ms Russell said the online
collaboration resulted in
involving up to 3000 farmers
and forced milk processing
factories to shut down.
While in New Zealand
Federated Farmers did a
good job of representing
farmer s interests, farmers still
had a relatively low profile.
It s the same for farmers the
world over because they are too
busy farming, Ms Russell said.
Social media forums such as
AgChatNZ gave farmers a voice
and allowed them to engage
directly with each other and the
Another strand of her Kellog
Leadership project will involve
completing an audit on social
media use by farmers.
Ms Russell hopes to uncover
how farmers are using sites such
as Twitter and how many are
engaging with social media at all.
Based on her own usage and
knowledge of the industry she
suspects the numbers of active
tweeters are on the low side.
Asked how she thinks New
Zealand farmers compare to their
counterparts in Australia, the US
and the UK, there is a slight
wince before she answers.
They re getting there...
She predicts the proliferation of
smart phones will bring more
farmers to the Twittersphere but
also acknowledges it won t be for
You have got to see the value of
it, and the main value is
connecting with others -- so for
introverted people, they won t be
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