Monday, 19 July 2010

Use of social media by farmers and others

Follow me on Twitter discussing this. It's interesting. I'll be making a fuller posting soon, when I have time, but for now, before tweeting me PLEASE READ MY ENTIRE RECENT TWITTER THREAD, before making any accusations against me that I am either against farming or against farmers using social media. Look at my posting in April on this blog for starters.

But the more I have studied # like #agchat the more I've noticed something that troubles me.

My belief is that the social media space on Twitter is being heavily used by people who are working directly or indirectly for big ag GM seed companies, and who are being paid directly or indirectly so to do (for example lobbyists, big seed employees, farmers getting good deals on seeds or indeed free seeds).

I'd encourage anyone to participate in #agchat on Twitter and follow people like @agchat.

But think about what you know about who, what they are saying and why.

I'll give one example.

Someone heavily involved is Michelle Payne Knoper, or MPK for short. Her company and website is called Cause Matters. You quickly get a feel for her 'cause' and her clients if you read her writing or follow her participation on Twitter.

Get into dialogue with people like fairfoodfight, podchef, and follownathan on their blogs or on Twitter and ask them what they think about what I am saying.

Follow my recent tweets @IanWalthew - and take a good hard look at what I actually WROTE by reading my recent thread before jumping out of your socks and firing off stuff to me on Twitter.

Follow the comments on this blog.

I believe the Internet cannot nor should not be policed by anyone and it should be open to all, including big ag. I believe in freedom of speech, I believe #agchat is a good thing, I think farmers should be using social media.

However, even though I personally prefer complete transparency, even with those offering that, it's not possible to know who's really behind anyone's participation in social media on on any issue.

But big ag interests, as big oil and other special interests have MASSIVE lobbying and PR budgets, they get social media, why it matters and why they need to be present. But not necessarily in their own name.

So I'd say this: look carefully at WHO is saying WHAT on things like Twitter and ask yourself WHY?

FURTHER TO BRANDI'S COMMENT:

Please, anyone, not Brandi in particular, before commenting on this post, read my Twitter @IanWalthew time line on this subject, and re-read this post.

I am not saying that any particular person behind Agchat are paid or sponsored by BigAg. What I am saying is that SOME participants, it seems to me likley, are being paid or sponsored by BigAg in an effort to get their talking points into the Agchat community discussion space. I don't mind one way or another if Monsanto tweet on Agchat, that's called free speech. What I object to is any BigAg company using third-parties to subtely introduce their talking points, the talking points of GMO seed companies into the debate. All I am asking for is transparency, and that users of Agchat should be aware that not EVERYONE is on it for the same reason - which is fine - but that some 'people' may be either fronts for BigAg (anyone sitting in any PR office anywhere in the world can set up any number of Twitter identities) in a manner which I find unethical OR that certain participants - who are NOT hiding their identity - are actually being paid (in kind, or with money, either to their companies, personal accounts or farms) to push BigAg talking points. Naturally they do this very subtely but it's interesting to note how often the remarks of 'individuals' seem to match exactly the current talking points, even language, of Big Ag special interests.

I am not a policeman - and there is nothing illegal going on anyway - so I won't name names.

What I would ask people to do when participating in social media forums on any issue - where special interests have a MAJOR agenda to push - to be alert to how large corporations work.

If anyone doubts their honesty, I'd suggest following Wall Street or the oil industry, or the healthcare industry, to cite just three recent examples.






5 comments:

Brandi Buzzard said...

Ian, did you not understand my response to your tweet? Ag Chat isn't paid for or sponsored by anyone except farmers. Agvocates such as myself, Troy Hadrick, Jeff Fowle and others aren't paid by anyone to advocate for agriculture. I'm a graduate student, Troy is rancher in SD and Jeff is a rancher also.

writenowbiz said...

I got involved with AgChat because I'm sick to death of having groups that *do* have people posting for them post inaccurate information (to my point of view) as normal. I'm tired of being told that we don't care about our animals, that we don't care about people. As a small farm trying to get a little bigger I need to learn more effective ways to reach people and AgChat has been a big part of that. Many "kindred spirits" there have found the same thing - a way to present our stories. Now because we want to be professional it's "too slick" (which has been said). I've been condemned because I/we refuse to condemn large farmers...knowing full well we cannot feed all the people a feedlot supplies without - well, becoming a feedlot! That's not an interest. As an alternative - a choice people can make - we need to reach a few people but also need to insure in a general way information from our stories is out there. That's why I participate.

John's Custom Meats said...

Ian, interesting that you blog about farms yet you chose to unfollow me on twitter after I transparently answered your questions regarding my social media involvement. It would seem to me that you didn't like my answer that I wasn't paid by some large coporporation or seed company.

Perhaps you could explain that.

Amy
Split Creek Farm
John's Custom Meats
@KyFarmersMatter

Mike Haley said...

Ian,

I posted this in response to you on Amanda's blog http://sollmana.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/the-foundation-the-sponsors-and-the-important-stuff/ and thought felt that this would answer some of your concerns here as well.

Again I thank you for your interest in the AgChat Foundation, as you know the foundation was an idea by a group of farmers that participated in the weekly #agchat started by Michele Payn-Knoper. I welcome you as a participant and look forward to your input and views in the weekly chat as well as in the #agchat stream on twitter during the week.

I understand that you have a lot of concerns, but I feel that you are being very opaque in your questions and they have made it hard for members of the community to answer them. I understand that you are concerned that there are individuals that are using the #agchat tag and are not being transparent about who or what they represent. I understand this concern and I value transparency for individuals that agree with me and ones that disagree with my views as well.

In the world of social media, as you know, we can’t control who does or does not participate in discussions. As Vice President of the Foundation I have either met personally or had several conversations with all the board and advisory board as well as the volunteers that work with the foundation and believe that they have been as transparent as possible about themselves. If you would like to learn more about these individuals their bio’s, as well as who they work for can be found on the AgChat Website here http://agchat.org/about/faces-of-the-foundation.

Through a few email exchanges I have had with you it seems that the bulk of your concerns are about participants of the weekly chat. Although we can’t control who or how individuals use a hashtag on twitter we do ask that they follow the guidelines listed on the AgChat website http://agchat.org/about/twitter-agchat-foodchat%20‎. If you study these guidelines you will find that most of your concerns are addressed, but as I said its up to each individual to respect these suggested guidelines.

You have asked that no special interest groups or “Big Ag” be allowed to sponsor AgChat or participate. I hope that you understand the complexity of your request as there is no true definition of “Big Ag”. As I read through articles in the Huffington Post several individuals consider anyone, including farmers, who participate in any part of agriculture other than an organic method is “Big Ag”.

As we created the foundation and looked at social media, it was with the reality that our communities, both online and in real life are very diverse. In my county, you have biotech crops as well as organic crops. The farmers here understand each other’s production choices and do not want to impose their views on others, we simply engage in dialog and encourage each other to help share information with the public that may not understand. That’s what we are looking to accomplish here and I think the personal relationships many of his have developed over the past 18 months or so show that is happening.

The Mission of the foundation is simply to “Empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms.” The foundation will have no role in shaping or telling farmers what message they should tweet or blog about, but only to encourage them to share their own story about how they farm. It is my personal view that anyone can sponsor individuals or the Foundation AS LONG AS they do so transparently so everyone knows.

Please share this information with the others that have contacted you. I encourage them to speak up and voice their concerns to any of the board members, without their input it is impossible for us to know what their concerns are.

Mike Haley said...

Ian,

I posted this in response to you on Amanda's blog and thought felt that this would answer some of your concerns here as well.

Again I thank you for your interest in the AgChat Foundation, as you know the foundation was an idea by a group of farmers that participated in the weekly #agchat started by Michele Payn-Knoper. I welcome you as a participant and look forward to your input and views in the weekly chat as well as in the #agchat stream on twitter during the week.

I understand that you have a lot of concerns, but I feel that you are being very opaque in your questions and they have made it hard for members of the community to answer them. I understand that you are concerned that there are individuals that are using the #agchat tag and are not being transparent about who or what they represent. I understand this concern and I value transparency for individuals that agree with me and ones that disagree with my views as well.

In the world of social media, as you know, we can’t control who does or does not participate in discussions. As Vice President of the Foundation I have either met personally or had several conversations with all the board and advisory board as well as the volunteers that work with the foundation and believe that they have been as transparent as possible about themselves. If you would like to learn more about these individuals their bio’s, as well as who they work for can be found on the AgChat Website here http://agchat.org/about/faces-of-the-foundation.

Through a few email exchanges I have had with you it seems that the bulk of your concerns are about participants of the weekly chat. Although we can’t control who or how individuals use a hashtag on twitter we do ask that they follow the guidelines listed on the AgChat website http://agchat.org/about/twitter-agchat-foodchat%20‎. If you study these guidelines you will find that most of your concerns are addressed, but as I said its up to each individual to respect these suggested guidelines.

You have asked that no special interest groups or “Big Ag” be allowed to sponsor AgChat or participate. I hope that you understand the complexity of your request as there is no true definition of “Big Ag”. As I read through articles in the Huffington Post several individuals consider anyone, including farmers, who participate in any part of agriculture other than an organic method is “Big Ag”.

As we created the foundation and looked at social media, it was with the reality that our communities, both online and in real life are very diverse. In my county, you have biotech crops as well as organic crops. The farmers here understand each other’s production choices and do not want to impose their views on others, we simply engage in dialog and encourage each other to help share information with the public that may not understand. That’s what we are looking to accomplish here and I think the personal relationships many of his have developed over the past 18 months or so show that is happening.

The Mission of the foundation is simply to “Empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms.” The foundation will have no role in shaping or telling farmers what message they should tweet or blog about, but only to encourage them to share their own story about how they farm. It is my personal view that anyone can sponsor individuals or the Foundation AS LONG AS they do so transparently so everyone knows.

Please share this information with the others that have contacted you. I encourage them to speak up and voice their concerns to any of the board members, without their input it is impossible for us to know what their concerns are.