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A new coffee shop

By Rebecca French Smith

Missouri Farm Bureau Multi-Media Specialist

Most farmers and ranchers are passionate about agriculture. Their passion is increasingly flowing into new outlets as they embrace social media to talk about what they do. It's a new meeting place--an online coffee shop--where thousands of conversations about food occur daily. Farmers and ranchers tweet, post and share information about market prices and regulations and policies that affect them, but they're also beginning to listen and participate in conversations about what they produce: food.

On YouTube, a video of pork production in northeast Missouri shows how hogs are raised and cared for. On Facebook, Missouri Farm Bureau's page posts information about current issues, like labor regulation proposals and food price trends. On Twitter, once you get a farmer or rancher talking it's hard to get him or her to quit. It's interesting to listen to someone who loves what they do, isn't it?

While social media allows farmers to connect like never before by talking directly to consumers, there is a problem in that many farmers speak a different language. A newly created alliance of farmer- and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, funded a study conducted by Maslansky Luntz & Partners to look at how effectively those in agriculture communicate with consumers. The study found what we in agriculture say and what consumers hear are often very different. So, we have an opportunity and a perfect outlet in social media to communicate better.

Consumers are concerned about their food--where it comes from, how it's grown, how it's processed and ultimately is it good for their health--and farmers and ranchers are concerned about these things. We all share these basic concerns; farmers just express it differently.

Online, the conversation to address these concerns is much bigger, and the possibility that there is someone out there who can answer your questions becomes quite good--at the very least a dialogue has started. We've found that the broadened scope helps consumers and producers right here in Missouri, and perhaps, we contribute in ways that help others elsewhere, too.

Stop in the online coffee shop sometime, eavesdrop on Facebook or Twitter, and jump in the conversation. See what's going on, ask questions and keep talking to farmers and ranchers. They enjoy the conversation, and they want to share their passion for producing food.

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