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What do US farmers and German farmers have in common?

Tricia Braid joined the Illinois Corn Growers Association/Illinois Corn Marketing Board as Director of Communications in July of 2009. She is responsible for the communications, marketing, and PR plans of both corn associations and acts as ICGA and ICMB’s spokesperson, managing issues and evaluating programming for its effectiveness. Before coming to the Illinois Corn, Tricia was the Radio News Manager for RFD Radio with the Illinois Farm Bureau.  Her other work experience includes Field Editor for Illinois AgriNews and Prairie Farmer Magazine, Communications Director for the Macon County Farm Bureau and AgriBusiness Director for WMBD/WIRL, Peoria. Tricia Braid is a graduate of University High School in Normal. She earned a BS in International Agricultural Economics from the University of Wyoming. She is also a graduate of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program. Tricia Braid resides in Heyworth with husband Jeff and their four children.

What role do blogging farmers play in the public perception of agriculture in the US?

Farmers who use social media, like blogs, are vital to building effective conversations with the general public about agriculture. In the United States, less than two percent of people are farmers, and only a small portion of that two percent are larger row crop farmers and livestock producers. Consumer research here indicates that it takes just one interaction with a farmer to influence how a consumer feels about agriculture. Using social media like blogs can provide that one, valuable interaction. Hopefully it is a positive experience that prioritizes the concerns of the consumer!

In Germany, many farmers try to explain agriculture in social media in order to improve the reputation of their industry, too. Could this work?

Yes, social media is an important part of reputation management. If German consumers are similar to American consumers, you can expect similar results. Social media relies on personal connections between people. Reputation management relies on trust, and trust is built when people have a sense of community and like mindedness. Social media facilitates those virtual communities.

Are online active farmers supported by the farm Bureau or other organisations, if so, how?

Farmers that advocate for their industry online have many support options available to them, funded by industry, farm organizations, and their agricultural checkoff programs. We have research-based communications training, recommended approaches to messaging, and workshops designed to share best practices in social media. Most importantly, we help farmers understand more about what their consumer customers value not just about farmers as people, but also about the practices of farming, the methods used.

Is conventional agriculture in the USA watched as critical as in Germany from the media?

Yes! For about a decade now, our agricultural methods have been under a microscope. Media are very interested in learning more, but farmers are hesitant in many cases to invite media to their farms because of concern about how the story might be presented.

What is the relationship between conventional farmers and organic farmers in the USA?

There is a complicated relationship between conventional and organic farmers in the United States. Certified organic productions methods do not add any nutritional value to the food product, and in some cases, the organic methods can be less environmentally friendly and less sustainable. However, the perception of organic among most consumers is that it is better. As a commodity organization, we do not present one method as better than the other. We just provide factual information about the different systems. In many cases, there are hard feelings between conventional and organic farming industries. Individual farmers are likely to still be friends, but the industries as a whole are many times at odds. Some organic farm groups are very aggressive in promoting non-scientific, unfavorable information about conventional farming. That causes hurt and angry feelings.

The questions were asked by Rainer Winter.