Facebook fertile ground for farmers

Nov. 18, 2012 @ 11:25 PM

In the popular social network game “Farmville,” players build and manage virtual farms on Facebook.

Earlier this week, locals were shown how Facebook and other social media services can help drive revenue to the real thing.

More than 70 people gathered inside Mount Pleasant Baptist Church for a “Farming and Social Media” seminar on Thursday. The event was orchestrated by the Rutherford County branch of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

During the seminar, guests heard testimonials from farm owners who experienced boosts in revenue and market visibility after cultivating a presence on social networking websites.

In addition to being an effective — and in most cases, free — marketing tool for farmers, CES Director Jeff Bradley feels that an embrace of social media might help adjust public perception of the agriculture industry.

“Most people just think about food and not the other things that go along with it,” he explained. “But in some form or fashion, agriculture touches our lives each day.”

The agriculture industry feeds $70 billion into the state economy each year. On average, the sector claims 18 percent of North Carolina’s composite income and employs more than 17 percent of its labor force.

“Society in general is about two or three generations removed from the family farm,” Bradley said, adding that teenagers and young adults are generally more receptive to information after it has been filtered through services like Twitter and Facebook.

Leading up to Thursday’s event, CES invited Middle and High School students across Rutherford County to participate in a Social Media Video contest. Teens were asked to create videos demonstrating the various ways that social media can benefit area farmers. 

The winning clip was directed by Carl Jolley, an 8th grader attending Chase Middle School. His entry featured a series of interviews with rural farmers who already utilize Facebook, interspersed with statistics showing the website's demographical reach. During the seminar, Jolley was recognized and awarded $250 for his video.  

At around 1 p.m., guests migrated from Mount Pleasant Church to the nearby Facebook Data Center. Once there, they received a tour of the company’s $450 million campus — where updates from local farms, as well as posts from Farmville, are harvested.