Farmers encouraged to tell stories

The FarmOn Foundation is again urging farmers to tell their stories. And this year it’s getting help in Australia and the United Kingdom.

The FarmOn Foundation is again urging farmers to tell their stories. And this year it’s getting help in Australia and the United Kingdom.

The Bashaw-based organization, which promotes agriculture and farming as a career, organized a campaign called #FARMVOICES last year. Through it, farmers were encouraged to share photos and messages through social media to raise public awareness about their industry.

Ultimately, more than 2,000 electronic submissions were received from 23 countries, with the effort culminating on April 22 — Earth Day. That success convinced FarmOn officials to continue #FARMVOICES in 2014.

Like last year, farmers are being asked to provide a photo and a message related to one of three themes: what they love about farming, the challenges they face as farmers, and how they care for their land and livestock.

These can be posted on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #FARMVOICES.

“It was really about us trying to find a way to help consumers understand farmers, and for farmers to do that simply,” said Sarah Wray, a Bashaw-area farmer and director with FarmOn. “And there’s nothing easier than taking a quick picture and posting it with a short message.”

Not only did last year’s campaign prompt an overwhelming response, it led to interaction between farmers.

They shared their challenges and successes, with older farmers even connecting with their younger counterparts about farm succession, said Wray.

“That wasn’t the intent of what #FARMVOICES was, but it’s really evolved to that.”

The original goal of linking farmers to consumers is also being achieved, said Wray.

“We actually have been increasing in consumers who have been joining the movement — everybody from chefs to food bloggers.”

In an effort to extend the reach of the project, FarmOn has partnered with the Future Farmers Network of Australia and The Farming Forum of the United Kingdom to help spread the word about #FARMVOICES. It hopes to include more organizations next year.

The campaign is also being promoted on the FarmOn website at www.FarmOn.com, including through a video produced by FarmOn. It includes clips of farmers from around the world — highlighting the diversity of agriculture and the different forms it takes.

Wray said social media traffic related to #FARMVOICES this year is ahead of the 2013 pace to the same point.

“I’m hoping that that’s a good indication that Earth Day will be even a bigger day than last year.”

April 22 will again be the apex of the #FARMVOICES campaign, when the message will be its strongest.

“#FARMVOICES is about one day and doing as many stories in one day as possible,” said Wray. “But it happens throughout the year.”

The images and messages collected last year can still be viewed at FarmOn.com/farmvoices, but are being buried under the flood of new submissions.

“They’re still on there, but you have to scroll a while,” said Wray.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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