Fighting apathy to advocate for farmers using social media
By Lisa B. Pot
She came charging into the office like a gust of wind intent on stirring up some action. And so she did. Mel Luymes is a force of nature and in a completely candid interview for this issue, declared “I’m not afraid to make an ass of myself. Life is too short not to share our opinions.” Ranting is one of her favourite things and her skill at confronting and articulating issues earned her a second place prize in the OFA ‘Reel ‘ Farm Video Challenge. You can read more about it inside.
While chatting with her over chai latte’s at the Queen’s Bakery in Blyth, I was struck by her comment that she longs to overcome apathy. Indeed, she’s the very antithesis of the word with her firebrand rants and youthful drive to command and conquer.
I, however, had a nagging worry that apathy is creeping up on me, inviting me to merely watch and report, rather than be proactive and participate. I’m a little tired, a little jaded, a little too willing to fall into line behind someone else who can voice it better. Call it complacency. Call it growing older. Or come right out and call it laziness.
Is it really so terrible to retreat into nature, a novel or a quiet hour of creativity which nourishes my soul? Or just BE a farmer rather than market yourself as one? Terrible, no, but unfortunately isolation doesn’t prompt change. Sometimes you have to get out of that chair, put the novel down and voice your opinion at a meeting. Vote. Write a letter to the editor. Join a political organization. Take a stand!
Or are there less intrusive ways to make a difference for those who veer towards introversion rather than join the extroverts? Another person I interviewed was Andrew Campbell of FreshAir media who encourages farmers to use social media to advocate their livelihood by means of Tweets on Twitter, posts on Facebook and pictures on Instagram.
I’ve long been a Facebook follower as a means to connect with family overseas, celebrate my friend’s joys and achievements, laugh at silly quotes and connect with people who share similar interests. It’s where I link up with my fellow Huron County Tri-Hards and post updates on our Coffeebreak Bible study. It’s a fabulous window of life, all from the comfort of a cozy recliner chair inside the safe haven of my home. It’s more like a gentle breeze than a gust of wind but is it any less effective?
Andrew believes it can be very effective if we are intentional about what we share. He encourages farmers to go beyond using social media for knowledge, social contacts and entertainment and consciously use it to enlighten consumer’s views of farming and food production. By intentionally sharing pictures of growing and harvesting, milking, family farm life and other aspects of rural living, we can connect consumers to the people and places where food comes from. It’s a big distinction and an opportunity to halt the encroaching lure of apathy to create a fresh-faced vision of advocacy via sharing thoughts and visuals. It’s more subtle but can, potentially, open the door to a very direct discussion on food and farming. It can change perception and how we perceive things affects how we make choices.
Made sense to me.
If, by sharing pictures of our Jerseys jumping with glee on their first day out in pasture in the spring, I can promote the health and happiness of our cows, and give consumer’s confidence that dairy farmers take good care of their animals, then I have affected change. I have altered someone’s perception about dairy farm and promoted my industry as a trustworthy source of healthy milk for their children to drink.
It is, of course, more important to BE that farmer. The one who is trustworthy and welfare-conscious. Which we are. So why not show it? It’s not boasting when your goal is to inspire and educated.
I still think having someone come to the farm, see our cows, talk to me face-to-face and step in my shoes is more effective. It’s not always possible so being a window is the next best thing.
So I fought the apathy that told me its too much fuss, social media is overrated and who has the time?
I joined Instagram: LisaPot526
And Twitter: @LisaBPot
And recommitted to Facebook. (While doing so, I wished I’d had the foresight to brand myself with a universal code name to make remembering all my logins easier).
Words and pictures effect change. If they are your gift, then social media is an ideal outlet for your raves and, if you are like Mel, your rants too.◊
Lisa B. Pot is editor of the Rural Voice and dairy farms in Huron County.