Friday, July 23, 2010

Agvocacy: advocacy in the fields

When the typical suburban/urbanite hears "farm," picturesque visions of tractors and bales of hay under a dandelion sun play across the screen, complete with perfect black and white-patterned cows munching grass, muddy pigs sitting behind white picket fences, and a head farmer in overalls and a straw hat. But Facebook? Not exactly the first though that comes to mind. But believe it or not, farmers are jumping on the latest trend in communication and tweeting about their tractors and YouTube-ing farm tours.

This new form of agriculture advocacy, dubbed "agvocacy" (or "agucation" when it comes to the educational aspect), has sparked more than just a trend in the world of farming and cultivation -- it's sparked the national conversation that the field has been desperately attempting to start for so long! How often do we know the source of our food, let alone the work our area farmers have put into that very food? When have we been able to sneak a peek at the routine of the workers of the land; the four or five am wake-up calls, the prayers to the weather gods, the Sundays and holidays that demand work over play?

By equipping farmers with the skills to use technology most effectively, we're opening doors for ourselves and our communities. When Farmer Bob's corn is at its prime, your Twitter feed will remind you to pick up a few ears. When you're low on ideas for dinner, you can register online for your area CSA and discover a world of produce fresher than you'd ever imagined. Even when you're simply curious about the where your cage-free egg came from, a simple click can transport you to the family farm in the form of a Facebook video. When we are able to make connections between our food and our farmers, we take on more responsibility for our actions and our power as buyers. We begin to trust the people behind the produce, then build a relationship based on that trust and fuel that relationship with our dollars, votes, and voices. This pools money into our local economy, boosting the need for the farms of our community to grow, leading to more jobs, more resources...and more yummy product!

While the average American is two generations removed from the farm, social networking can again reconnect the public with the plow. Who knew that being an agricultural activist would eventually only require a click?

P.S. A prime example of the effect technology is taking on farming, check out Local Harvest, a search database that can help your find the farmers market near you!

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