Social media has become an increasingly important entity for businesses hoping to bridge the rural and urban gap between farmers and consumers. Social media’s power in agriculture lies in its ability to connect others, through building relationships and developing a community. It also allows producers the ability to tell their side of the story.
Bost Farms’ director of social media, Rachel Bost, has experienced the digital age’s effect on agriculture and her company. Since 2012, she has found that their posts have gained more traction in terms of likes and shares. She said the online platform has allowed for transparency between producer and consumer and is something from which Bost and the company have benefitted.
“Pictures of the farm help give credence to our ‘homegrown’ mantra,” Bost said. “We also use Facebook to make other business-related announcements such as changes to our operating hours, since we do not have a storefront.”
This new approach to a once isolated occupation has allowed for farmers to connect with community members and to thrive in a competitive market.
“People want to buy delicious and safe produce from someone they know and trust,” Bost said. “In addition to communication, the interactive features help foster personal relationships between the farmer and the public.”
For companies such as Clear Creek Produce, Facebook has been a frequent tool since 2015. Owner Matt Britt is a part of this virtual universe that is being used to bring his company exposure. The business owner advertises his company’s social media in the form of business cards, imploring customers to “find us on Facebook.”
“We do a lot of Facebook. That’s the biggest thing to do,” Britt said, whose girlfriend runs the social media facet of the business. “We have around a thousand followers and every time we post we reach 660 people.”
Clear Creek has a wide reach, its customers extending from Memphis all the way to Jackson. Whether it be virtual, through Facebook, or going to farmers markets and grocery stores and personally connecting with consumers, being able to connect with a variety of people is an important principle to Britt.
Britt said Facebook is more person-related, and with Instagram he wouldn’t receive as many direct messages, which is why he chooses to focus his social media efforts on Facebook.
While Bost Farms and Clear Creek have relied mainly on community engagement through Facebook to get the word out, Katherine Sharp of Farmstead Florals has done almost the opposite — allowing consumers to increase her business’ recognition through shares and likes.
Situated in the breezeway near Uptown Coffee and Holli’s Sweet Tooth, Sharp introduced the concept of a local self-serving flower stand towards the end of June. She credits the concept to her father, who had the idea of opening the self-serve farming stand after a visit to the Midtown Farmers’ Market. It started first as trial and error, but if there was any place for the stand to thrive, it was right here in Oxford, said Sharp.
The stand runs solely on an honesty policy regarding payment. Customers pick up the flowers at the stand and then send a Venmo payment to Farmstead Florals. The tool was an attraction for college students and for people who rarely carry cash – Sharp said it was the most efficient method possible. She said the honesty policy, a unique aspect about the project, has worked well so far.
“Sometimes I do the math and divide the total in increments and realize that the total is off and people aren’t being honest with the policy, but for the most part it has been perceived well,” Sharp said.
While the company hasn’t advertised its social media on its stand yet, people have posted pictures of the stand often tagging its location on their posts to raise awareness of it. The Farmstead Floral Instagram account has posted only one photo of the stand since its creation.
“I’m a terrible millennial,” Sharp said.
She said she hopes to draw in more people in the future by using social media increasingly.
Lauren Lawson, junior biochemistry major, visited the flower stand last week and posted a photo on her personal Instagram account, peeking out behind a bouquet of sunflowers.
“I saw a friend’s post on Instagram about the stand and thought it was beautiful,” Lawson said. “I wanted to get the word out because I think it’s hard for small businesses like that to get the word out.”