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Why East Anglia's farmers need to harness the positive power of social media

Fenland farmer Neill Craig has more than 7,000 followers on Instagram. Picture: Harry Rutter

Fenland farmer Neill Craig has more than 7,000 followers on Instagram. Picture: Harry Rutter

Harry Rutter

Social media platforms have given farmers influential tools to launch digital campaigns, share farming tips and tell their story to consumers - so East Anglia's agricultural community has been urged to take full advantage.

With public opinion so important in shaping policy decisions and retail trends, shareable posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become an increasingly indispensable business communication channel.

Brian Finnerty, regional communications adviser for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in East Anglia, said: “We think it’s really important for farmers to engage with social media. It’s an excellent way to demonstrate what goes on beyond the farm gate and to communicate directly with the public.

“Across East Anglia there are some excellent examples of farmers using social media to promote the positive side of farming, such as drone footage of combines at work and photos of farmland wildlife. We’ve also seen striking images posted to highlight the less-positive side, including sheep worrying and hare coursing.

“Initiatives such as the NFU’s #glyphosateisvital campaign show how effective social media can be when farmers work together, as well. The photos, videos and individual stories farmers posted made a real difference in the fight to avoid an EU ban.”

Neill Craig, of Euximoor Grange Farm in Christchurch, near Wisbech, documents his work on the 13,500 acre farm using Instagram – where he has attracted more than 7,000 followers.

The 31-year-old, who moved from Northern Ireland to farm in the Fens 13 years ago, said his audience was mostly other farmers interested in how he is using machinery, which has sparked interest from a major manufacturer.

“John Deere have made contact and they want me to take over their Instagram account for a week at the end of October, so I will put up a lot more pictures of John Deere machines,” he said. “It was a bit of a shock when they asked me.

“I have been doing it for four years. Basically I just put pictures up of what I am doing, and pictures of machinery and what other folk are doing. People seem to like it.

“Mainly it is people in the farming industry who would follow me. I will get quite a few messages asking about setting machinery up and stuff like that. It is useful for sharing hints and tips to make the job better. I will ask people for advice as well, so it works both ways.

“The public can search for it online, so we also to try and use it to promote what we are doing so the public can see where their food comes from. It all helps.”

TOP FIVE TIPS

The National Farmers’ Union has outlined five ways for farmers to make best use social media:

1: The British Countryside is a beautiful canvas – use it to post images.

2: Your experiences are stories that need to be told – take videos and share.

3: Let you voices echo through corridors of power – tag key political figures.

4: If you’re proud of your industry, then show it – post top facts and stats.

5: Don’t be afraid. Venture into the social media world.

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