"I have a Flip camera I carry with me,” says Widboom. “You can easily shoot video and post it to show positive ag events.”

Troy Hadrick, a fifth-generation rancher from Vale, SD, spends an hour or two each day (not in succession) checking blogs, anti-ag pages and using social media and had quite an experience with YouTube. Earlier in 2010, Yellow Tail wine opted to donate money to the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) – one of the biggest anti-agriculture organizations in the U.S.

“I heard about that and opened my cupboard and sure enough, we had a bottle of Yellow Tail in there; I’m pretty sure it was a gift,” Hadrick says. “So, I took my Flip camera out, set it on a fence post, turned it on and walked out in front and told my story.”

More than 20,000 video views later, Hadrick feels like his story was heard.

“I knew what I wanted to say and it came from the heart,” he says. “I told my story, and if a couple hundred people had watched it, I’d have been tickled. They way it took off and the way people helped share the message was incredible. I even got a call from an Australian radio broadcaster wanting to interview me.

“What other tool would give me the opportunity to never leave home and have people all over the world watch my story? It made an impact on a lot of people.”

Hadrick and his wife also have a blog (http://www.advocatesforag.blogspot.com) where they speak up about ag issues and share other ag stories that can impact their farming operations. The blog allows them to put their personal views out there. One of the best things social media can do is to put people back in the issues.

“That’s what’s core: remembering there are people behind the issues we talk about day to day,” Terry says. “We in ag haven’t done a great job of humanizing ourselves and the work we do. That’s what non-farmers are interested in.

“They’re seeking information; they’re hungry for it, so let’s move the coffee shop to the laptop,” she adds. “I encourage people to make it personal. You have to be a person before people will consider your opinions something to find value in.”

Widboom agrees with creating that virtual coffee shop. “I think online communications are much like a coffee shop,” he says. “I hope if you’re at a coffee shop and you hear something wrong, you step forward, introduce yourself and say something about how agriculture production really is. Online it’s the same thing, whether it’s a blog rebuttal or a comment on a video. It’s a general mentality of being proud of what we do. We can’t hope someone else will take care of shedding that positive light.

“All of agriculture needs to take advantage of communicating facts and truths in social media – and communications in general,” Widboom says.

Social media tools allow crop producers, ranchers and every other farmer the chance to have their say and let people know how agriculture really operates.

“Agriculture isn’t a 9-5 job. At no other point in history have we been able to never leave the ranch and still talk to consumers 1,000 miles away, show them pictures and tell stories through video,” Hadrick says. “Social media is an incredible tool and completely free. With some time and an Internet connection, you can get out there to the whole world.”