It struck me this morning, as my husband and I were walking out the door - there is something I need to tell you. Something I need you to know.
We aren't that couple. In fact, I'm not even sure if we own a pitchfork.
A lot has changed since the 1930's. Our corn yields have increased six times over. We use computers, GPS, seed technology. We grow more, on less water and land. Our farms are bigger, our equipment is bigger, even our animals are bigger. We do all of this with fewer people than ever before in history.
We have college degrees, my husband actually has two. One of us works off the farm full time which is the new norm for farm families - just like non-farm families. We are professionals.
Some people are scared of our advancements. Some want us to farm like we did in the 1930's yet they don't realize that would require 20% of the population to give up their area of expertise and return to the farm. It would require thousands or more acres put into production.
Some people do not appreciate that only 2% of the population does this, so the rest of you can do what you love, what you are good at.
As we leave this morning, headed in different directions - Matt headed to represent the Missouri Corn Growers at an event, me headed to speak at a meeting for young farmers (the business side of what we do)- I'm asking a favor.
Will you trust us?
Will you trust the generations of expertise my husband's family brings? Will you trust our formal degrees and continuing education, plus our informal daily learning?
Will you trust the fact that our family- and only our family- makes the decisions on how this farm is run.
Will you trust that we are feeding your family and OURS and trust that it matters to us.
Will you trust we love this dirt and these animals more than we could ever explain and we do everything in our power to pass it all down in better condition than it is now?
Will you trust that we are devoted to doing this, the right way, for the right reasons and that we know more about how to accomplish that than lawmakers and activists and food bloggers and fitness coaches?
I know we cover more acres and feed more animals than our grandparents did. I know our farm looks more like a business than you imagine it should. I know we carry smartphones instead of pitchforks. I know that you often don't understand what we do and why.
But I also know we are GOOD at this. And we CARE. So will you, can you, trust us to do this?
-Matt & Kate
As I watch social media, it's becoming increasingly obvious a line is being drawn between those breeders that embrace the power of social media and those that are oblivious to it.
Here is the truth - if you are showing and selling stock, those animals are appearing on social media whether you intend for them to or not.
It's time to become aware and learn how to use that fact to boosts sales instead of hurting them. Here are some quick tips on maximizing your online presence.
1. Know where the live camera is
If you are at an event that is being streamed, you have to know where the camera is! I cannot count how many shows I watched online this year where the camera was centered on an exhibitor that was clueless about the FREE spotlight they were being granted. The judge wasn't looking in that spot so I spent hours looking at animals that weren't set up or exhibitors were clearly blocking my view.
Ask ahead of time and better yet, watch earlier shows on your own device. Once in the ring, be just as aware of that spot as you are of the judge. You are more likely to have people seeing your animal from their smartphone at home than sitting ring side. So pay attention!
2. ALWAYS be set
My fitter (AKA my husband) was trained relentlessly by his mentor that an animal is ALWAYS set unless in his pen or on the move. He demands the same for our animals now!
Even if the show is not being live streamed someone is taking pictures and posting them!
I was on Facebook today multiple times to get still shots and updates from a show I couldn't be at. In a number of those photos the judge was giving reasons so a few people were using that time as a break - and so were their animals! That means I was getting a pretty poor idea of what the animal actually looks like in the ring!
Just who is seeing those pictures? Other judges, other breeders, your potential buyers. Just do yourself and your stock a favor and make sure they are set all the time!
3. The judge is no longer the only judge
People use to rely heavily on printed results and maybe a few still photos to make determinations on who had successful breeding programs around the country.
Today, people are demanding proof! And they are going to social media to get it. A judge selecting your animal as the best is no longer good enough. Each person (potential customer) will see photos and video of the events and form their own opinions about who deserved the banners. Show for the judge but show for the cameras as well!
4. Your audience is endless
Years ago, you had to travel to multiple shows to make a name for your program. In today's world, you can broadcast your successful animals right into your buyers' palms.
This week we showed at Missouri State Fair. It used to be that we would only get our animals seen by a handful of potential buyers there. This week, only three hours after posting a picture of our champion ram, his photos had been seen by over 2500 people! In THREE hours! Since then the reach has nearly tripled.
5. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a bad picture is worth two thousand
Don't post bad pictures. Just don't.
Be aware of the photos you take and post. I cringe every time I see a post that says something like "This is isn't the best picture" or "This is the best we can get" and following is a terrible picture of what may (or may not) be a good animal. Take the time and get it right!
The livestock world is going through a huge change right now as our world shifts more to digital. Some breeders are catching on more quickly than others but we can all benefit from being more aware of what our animals look like ALL THE TIME!
Finally, if you're a person taking and posting those pictures thank you! All of the people in your sector of the industry appreciate your updates! However, you'll do the most good if you make those in your viewfinder very aware of where you are and what you are doing. Do the exhibitors, the judges, and your audience a huge favor and do your best to get good quality pictures of the animals!
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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