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Andrew Campbell cultivates social opportunity with #farm365

Alice Guthrie Published on 29 May 2015
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Andrew Campbell, the “Fresh Air Farmer,” is dedicated to farming, writing and social media, not necessarily in that order.

As a young man, he left the farm for a career in media, starting on radio at CKNX in Wingham, Ontario, as newscaster and later becoming farm editor. He found that though he had left the farm, the farm hadn’t left him.

He returned home to Bellson Farms in southwestern Ontario’s Middlesex County, where he and his wife, Jessica, work alongside his parents, Wayne and Phyllis. The young couple has two young children: Bella, 3, and Cash, 1. “[Farming] is such a great life,” he says.

The family farm is a dairy operation, where about 50 cows are milked in a tiestall barn with a pipeline. The cows are registered Holsteins, on DHI and type-classified. They cash crop, working about 400 acres, growing corn, soybeans, wheat and hay.

Andrew had been using social media for several years, sharing some of his pictures with friends, and had seen photo-a-day challenges. It “seemed like a fit – to challenge myself to be regular,” he comments.

He had previously posted pictures that didn’t rock the boat, but now he felt he needed to move out of his comfort zone. He started on Jan. 1, 2015, with a goal of posting one picture each day, either from his farm or farm-related.

andrew campbellOne of his biggest fears when starting was getting to Jan. 3 and running out of ideas for pictures. He expected winter to be a challenge but found there was not an issue at all, although there were a few days when he struggled to find a satisfactory image to share.

Each photograph is somewhat unique, although there are, of course, some similarities from time to time.

CBC did a story about Andrew’s idea, which expanded his audience. Andrew’s tweets are educational, as he explains how agriculture works and what tools, technology and equipment are used. Some people who have responded to his tweets are happy to hear from a farmer rather than just anti-agriculture propaganda.

It only took a couple of days for animal rights activists to find his tweets and hijack his hashtag #farm365 to post anti-farm propaganda. He found support from other farmers, and the activists backed off after a couple of weeks.

This did not prove to be a deterrent to Andrew, rather, “If anything, it just added to the reality of the need for it,” he says.

Andrew has a following of 16,500 on Twitter, which includes many farmers from Canada, North America and the world. He has had responses from Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and South America, to name a few.

He also has a following from consumers, some of whom have expressed gratitude to him for showing the farmers’ side of issues.

When he posted a picture of chopping hay on Family Day, someone questioned why he wasn’t taking time with his family for the holiday. It was an opportunity to educate his followers that a farmer needs to care for his stock every day, including holidays.

In addition to being a busy farmer, Andrew also does speaking engagements. Recently, he addressed the Farm and Food Care Foundation at its annual meeting in Milton, Ontario, speaking to the topic, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly about Social Media.”logoHe spoke of his experience with this project and shared some of the challenges it has presented. He is not a fan of Facebook but finds Twitter to be a guy’s tool.

Andrew sees a great need for the farming community to be proactive. He comments, “I can’t do a Google search for answers about farming without being bombarded by organizations with an agenda.”

This propaganda is not new but has been left unchallenged by farmers for too long. Andrew states, “We all need to be part of it ... ‘Communicator’ has to be part of our resumé now.”

Andrew doesn’t work alone. He refers some questions to other social commentators if he feels they are more capable or have specialized in that area. Andrew is really thankful for the opportunities he has been given and encourages others to step up to the plate on this issue.

Social media works really well if you are comfortable with it, but if that is not something a person feels OK with, they should seek other ways to communicate and help dispel the myths, lies and misinformation that abound about the agriculture industry. “We all need to be part of it,” he declares.  PD

PHOTO
Andrew Campbell. Photo courtesy of Alice Guthrie.

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